Traffic stops and probation violations are top sources of territorial drug busts
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Again this past week the American Samoa court system spent a large portion of its time dealing with alleged drug offenses.
The driver of a vehicle pulled over by cops in Futiga for a traffic violation was arrested and is now being charged for violating local drug laws.
Anthony Satuala, a.k.a Tony Satuala, 45, made his initial appearance in Court last month. He is charged with one count of unlawful possession of marijuana and one count of unlawful possession of methamphetamine (meth) , both unclassified felonies.
Bail is set at $15,000.
Preliminary examination is scheduled for next week.
On June 13th, 2021 at around 8:33p.m, the Tafuna Police Substation (TPS) contacted and notified a detective from the DPS Vice and Narcotics Unit concerning a possible drug case involving a driver of a vehicle pulled over by traffic officers for a traffic violation.
The driver of the vehicle was identified as Anthony Satuala, a.k.a Tony Satuala, the defendant in this case.
The detective of the VNU interviewed police officers who initiated the traffic stop. According to the officers, Satuala’s vehicle was stopped and pulled over in Futiga village due to his vehicle having blue headlights. Satuala was the driver and the only one in the vehicle; and when asked for his driver’s license, produced a provisional driver’s license, not a private driver’s license.
Due to the provisional license, the officer then notified Satuala that his vehicle was going to be impounded due to the fact that he didn’t have a private driver’s license.
(A provisional license is sometimes called a learner’s permit, and some restrictions are attached, including that you must have an adult in the vehicle when you are driving.)
The officer conducted an inventory search of the vehicle at the TPS in Satuala’s presence. During the inventory search, the officer observed a small baggie containing green leafy substance under the passenger’s seat. When questioned about the green leafy substance, Satuala told the officer that it was his.
Then, during a body search, the officer discovered two glass pipes (commonly use to smoke meth) containing white crystalline substance in Satuala’s right pocket.
Satuala was Mirandized and stated that he understood and agreed to waive his rights and make a statement regarding the illegal drugs.
According to Satuala, the marijuana discovered in the vehicle and the meth discovered in his possession belonged to him. He had bought it from another friend two weeks ago. He stated that he bought the drugs for his own personal use.
A 35-year-old man convicted for violating local drug laws while on probation was given another chance by the court to straighten up his life.
Iakopo Taulagi, who has been in custody since his arrest last year, unable to post a $10,000 surety bond appeared in Court last week for sentencing.
Taulagi was initially charged with unlawful possession of meth. But a plea agreement with the government, accepted by the court, allowed Taulagi to plead guilty to a lesser amended charge, a class D felony punishable by up to 5 years in jail, a fine of up to $5,000 or both.
With his guilty plea, Taulagi admits that a glass pipe containing meth was found in his possession when police officers searched him during a traffic stop.
He told the court that he’s truly remorseful for his action and wanted to return back home to care for his young family. He stated to the court that the 11-1/2 months he spent in jail were wasted days of his life, due to his carelessness and stupidity. He promised the court that he would not violate any laws of the territory in the future.
His attorney asked the court for a probated sentence saying that his client is a suitable candidate for a probated sentence, and that his client was working in his own mechanic shop to provide for his family before he was arrested and charged in this case.
The prosecutor agreed with the defense’s submission and asked the court to sentence the defendant to a term of probation without any additional period of detention. She stated to the court that the government believes the defendant is truly remorseful for his action and he now realizes how dangerous his action was after spending nearly a year in custody.
After considering all facts of the case, submissions from both parties, the Pre Sentence Report (PSR) and the defendant’s statement, the court issued its decision.
For the issue of violating conditions of his 2019 probation while he was on a 24-month probation from a case, which involved domestic violence, the court revoked probation and ordered Taulagi to serve 11 months at TCF. He’s credited with the 11 months he’s already served while awaiting the outcome of his current case.
In this new matter, the court sentenced Taulagi to a term of probation of 5 years, subject to several conditions with which he must comply, including serving 20 months at the TCF. He will be credited for the 11 and a half months he’s already served. The balance of detention was deferred by the court on the basis of the defendant’s good behavior.
Taulagi was also ordered to pay $1,000 and secure gainful employment. The court advised Taulagi that family farming is not considered as gainful employment.