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Probable cause found — case against Samuel Gaisoa is bound over to High Court

American Samoa District Court building

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — District Court Judge Fiti Sunia has found probable cause to bind over to the High Court, the government's case against Samuel Gaisoa, who is expected to enter a 'not guilty' plea this morning during arraignment.

Gaisoa, who is out on $50,000 bond, is facing multiple misdemeanor and felony counts for alleged weapons and drug possession.

During his preliminary examination last Friday, the government called one witness, DPS officer Justin Thomsen, whose testimony was apparently sufficient to move the case forward.

According to Thomsen's testimony, it was during the execution of a search warrant on Nov. 14, 2018 that cops seized weapons and drugs from Gaisoa's Kokoland residence, and his office at TMO, a company owned by his father.

Thomsen said the search was based on information received from a source that Gaisoa had drugs in his office. According to the government's case, both marijuana and methamphetamine were discovered in Gaisoa's office.

Thomsen testified that a search of Gaisoa's master bedroom netted an "assortment of firearms" including two AR15 rifles, a shotgun, a 45-caliber pistol, an MP5 submachine gun, a silencer, and a dismantled Uzi.

He said that in a gap between a shelf and the ceiling in the kitchen, they found lots of ammunition: "over 2,000".

According to Thomsen, the seized items were taken to the DPS Tafuna Substation where the confiscated drugs were tested. Afterwards, everything was delivered to the DPS evidence room.

When it was his turn to cross-examine the witness, defense attorney Talaimalo Marcellus Uiagalelei asked Thomsen if police were able to ascertain who lives at the Gaisoa residence in Kokoland; who else had keys to the defendant's office that was searched by police; and where his client was, when the search warrants were being executed.

Thomsen said Gaisoa, his wife, and their children live in the home that was searched in Kokoland. He further stated that the only other people who had keys to Gaisoa's office at TMO were his wife and his dad; and Gaisoa was off island during the search.

Uiagalelei inquired about the Confidential Informant (CI) who allegedly tipped police off. He asked Thomsen if the CI had every been to Gaisoa's office, to which the witness said yes.

The defense attorney then asked about the "dismantled" weapons that were allegedly confiscated from his client's bedroom. Thomsen said "dismantled" means the weapon was broken down to "pieces". Uiagalelei referred to the silencer, and asked if it works.

Thomsen responded that it "looked intact" but he could not state for sure if it works because although function checks were made, he cannot be certain until he actually fires the weapon(s).

Prosecutor, Assistant Attorney General Laura Garvey argued that probable cause had been established, as the drugs and the weapons that were discovered during the search of Gaisoa's home and office, are all "prohibited under local code.”

But according to Uiagalelei, the government failed to prove their burden, saying the items were found in a home and office accessible to others, and there is no "substantial" evidence of probable cause.

Uiagalelei said his client was not on island during the searches, and the items could have been brought in while his client and his family were away.

According to Uiagalelei, the fact that "pieces" of weapons were found means they cannot function as such and therefore, his client shouldn't be charged for it.

Garvey said 'physical control' is the issue, and Gaisoa had that, because the items were found in his room, his home, his office.

Altogether, Gaisoa is facing 5 felony counts and 5 misdemeanors.

District Court Judge Fiti Sunia said the court has no problem finding probable case with respect to the weapons, whether dismantled or intact.

He said the issue seems to be possession: "knowingly possess" and "unlawfully possess".

According to Sunia, based on the testimony of the lone witness, the element of possession supports probable cause, in that a bedroom is in a person's "utmost" control. He said items left in a person's bedroom — and home — are in their control and there is "no evidence to suggest that someone put it there," referring to the defense's argument that someone could have brought the weapons into the Gaisoa home while the defendant and his family were off island.

Sunia continued by saying that "there is no evidence that anyone accessed his office… and we can presume that things left in your office, are your stuff."