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Samoan man in Washington State jailed

Federal District Courthouse Seattle, Washington

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — A 33-year-old man, who is of Samoan ancestry and resides in Kent, Washington was sentenced Tuesday at the federal court in Seattle to serve two years in prison for being a felon in possession of a firearm during a civil unrest and looting in downtown Seattle, according to federal prosecutors and court documents.

Court filings and prosecutors said, that Al M. Talaga was arrested last September following an investigation of events that began June 1, 2020.  At the sentencing hearing this past week U.S. District Judge James L. Robart told the defendant, “You can’t have guns.  We’re talking about a phenomenon plaguing our city.”

“This defendant was one of a fairly small number of people who hijacked otherwise lawful protests, intended to highlight the issue of racial injustice, to vandalize and steal merchandise from a small business that had been closed for months due to COVID-19,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Tessa M. Gorman in Seattle in a US Justice Department news release.

However, Gorman said Talaga “chose to make the situation even more dangerous by bringing loaded firearms into the area.”

Court filings shows that Talaga has a 2005 conviction in King County Superior Court for Second Degree Robbery.

In asking for a 30-month sentence, federal prosecutor Kate Crisham wrote in her sentencing memo, “Talaga had two easily accessible, loaded firearms in an unlocked car that he and others used as a receptacle for the stolen merchandise they looted from the store. A witness observed the looters make multiple trips to Talaga’s car with stolen merchandise.”

The defense had submitted written — including from Talaga’s mother, to the presiding judge seeking leniency and providing some background on his life.

“He [Talaga] has always been a respectful young man, a caring older sibling, goofy, generous, loving and kind. Al has a strong sense of family and Samoan culture,” wrote one relative in letters included in court filings.

The defendant’s mother wrote to the judge saying that, “Al will give someone the shirt off his back and feed that person if he sees someone is in need. I’m not sure what he was thinking when he did what he did. I apologize for my son’s actions.”

Talaga, through his federal public defender, requested that the Court sentence him to time served and three years of supervised release, according to the defense’s sentencing statement.