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Siaumau sentenced to 30 years straight time for police car shooting

Thomas Siaumau in a Samoa News file photo

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — A man from Vaitogi convicted last month of seven counts related to the shooting of a police vehicle with an officer behind the wheel is going to jail.

Thomas Siaumau, 20, was sentenced to 30 years imprisonment by the High Court.

In delivering the court’s decision, Associate Justice Fiti Sunia, flanked by Associate Judges Mamea Sala Jr and Tunupopo Alalafaga, said it was an extremely rare situation when the court has to sit in judgment to determine a sentence following a verdict containing seven convictions, and even far rarer when the offenses are as serious as they are in Siaumau's case.

He said because of the rarity it was difficult for the court to make a judgment "having not previously experienced this sort of matter and not previously encountering these sorts of facts."

Sunia said that it was sheer luck that no one was injured or worse, killed. He said the defendant was previously convicted of property damage and assault, which had similar circumstances to the current case.  

Officers who were responding to an incident were assaulted with rocks that damaged a police vehicle. In that case Siaumau entered into a plea agreement and was sentenced to probation.

He was still serving probation when he was involved in the shooting of the police vehicle at the Tony Solaita baseball field. 

Throughout his trial Siaumau maintained his innocence — that he wasn’t responsible for the shooting at the police unit and the lights at the baseball field. 

He was convicted by a jury of first-degree assault, two counts of property damage first degree, possession of a prohibited weapon, unlawful use of a weapon, public peace disturbance and corruption of a juvenile.  

Before Siaumau addressed the court, his mother took the witness stand and begged the court for a second chance for her son, who is the youngest of her children.

The defendant’s mother was in tears when she addressed the court. She told the court that regardless of what happen, her son is a loving person who cares for his family and his parents.

Siaumau in his own words apologized to the court for his actions and begged for a second chance so that he can go back home and care for his family, especially his wife and two young children who reside in California. He told the court that he wanted to be with his wife and children so that he can witness his two children growing up.

(Siaumau did not apologize to the police officers, who were the victims in his action during the night of the incident.)

Defense attorney Daniel Holladay of the RDA Law Firm represented Siaumau during his sentencing, while Assistant Attorney General Christy Dunn appeared for the government.

Holladay asked that the 20-year-old defendant be given a probated sentence and be allowed to join his wife and kids in California.

But prosecutor Assistant Attorney General Christy Dunn reminded the court that the defendant was on probation when he committed the latest crime — an indication that probation did not work as a deterrent.

She asked for a sentence with detention.

Sunia spoke at length about the facts of the case and their impact on society before he announced the actual sentence.

He said, "It is the attitude of this place that we care for each other. It is an extension of our culture that has (become) woven into law enforcement.

“And that is why we have no weapons because we rely on our respect of each other and we rely on our upbringing where there's respect of one another.

"We even believe that the transition from our cultural form of government into the formal form of government we have now was made easier as evidenced by the Deed of Cession by the fact that we had ingrained in our upbringing, respect." 

"This case in our view is a disregard of that respect," he said. "Lose respect and we end up in a lawless society.”

"Officers … their work depends on our respect and when there is disrespect their work fails. When their work fails we as a community suffer," Sunia said.

He continued, "This was a serious, serious, serious case; this was a serious, serious, serious incident and we do not believe that probation is the proper judgment.”

Sunia went on to say, that after they considered all facts of the case, the court felt that a straight sentence is the suitable decision for this case.

He then sentenced Siaumau to 30 years for assault in the first-degree; 5 years for illegal use of a weapon; 1 year for possession of a prohibited weapon; 5 years for each of the two charges of property damage first degree; 15 years for corruption of a juvenile, and 6 months for public peace disturbance. The sentences are to be served concurrently.