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Sentencing delayed after mother-in-law pleads for leniency

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Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The Court has continued for two weeks sentencing for Lino Peni while additional information is being sought as to the status of the goods and property the defendant allegedly stole from an Asian store, and if any of the stolen property has been returned to the company, in order for the court to fashion an appropriate sentence for the accused.

Under a plea agreement with the government Peni pled guilty to one count of felony stealing, a crime punishable by not more than 5 years imprisonment, or a fine of $5,000 or both. The defendant appeared last week in court for a sentencing hearing where he sought leniency, and for a chance to be released from custody to return home to care for his family and turn his life around.

Peni also told the court that he is remorseful for his crime and he now fully understands that what he did was very wrong.

The defendant’s mother-in-law, who provided character witness testimony, pleaded with the court to give Peni another chance in life and let him return home to be with his family. Through tears and a quivering voice, the mother-in-law explained to the court that although Peni is her daughter’s husband, the defendant is considered a blood-member of the family.

While alcohol and cigarettes are not allowed in her family, the mother-in-law said the defendant is faced with these weaknesses, and that it’s very difficult for her to prohibit the defendant from alcohol and smoking because that is Peni’s rights as an individual to make his own choices.

Peni’s attorney assistant public defender Ryan Anderson argued for a probative sentence; however he requested work release if the defendant is given a jail term. He said work release would allow Peni to work and earn money to help his family, while serving his time in jail as well as paying any fines imposed by the court.

Although the government is not opposed to a probative sentence, the government’s attorney said there should be an order for the defendant to pay for the store’s goods and property that he stole.

However, the court wasn’t able to determine during the hearing as to the value of the goods and property stolen, what was stolen, and whether any of the goods stolen were returned to the owner of the store. Therefore another hearing is set for next month for the defendant, who remains in custody unable to post bail.