Two brothers in drug case get break — probation and fines
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Two brothers from Pago Pago convicted of violating local drug laws were each sentenced to 5 years probation and $2,000 fines. The brothers, Wayne Jack Banse and his younger brother, Johnny Banse, who was released from custody last month after the court accepted their guilty pleas appeared before Chief Justice Michael Kruse last week for sentencing.
They were represented by Assistant Public Defender Ryan Anderson while prosecuting the case was Assistant Attorney General Kristine Soule.
Each defendant was charged with one count of unlawful possession of methamphetamine (meth) and one count of unlawful possession of marijuana, both unclassified felonies punishable by a term of imprisonment of not less than five nor more than ten years and a fine of not less than $20,000, or both.
However, in a plea agreement with the government, accepted by the Court last month, each defendant pled guilty to the amended charge of unlawful possession of meth.
During sentencing, Anderson asked the court to sentence both of his clients to a term of probation. He stated that the 4 months the defendants spent in custody while awaiting the outcome of their cases was a good lesson. Anderson said both of his clients were good members of society before they were arrested. He asked the court not to order an additional period of detention for his clients.
The prosecutor agreed with defense saying that both defendants are truly remorseful for their actions and they’re also suitable candidates for a probated sentence.
After a brief recess, the court sentenced the Banse brothers to 5 years and a fine of $2,000 each. Execution of the period of detention was suspended and each defendant was placed on probation for 5 years subject to several conditions.
Each defendants were ordered to serve 20 months at the Territorial Correctional Facility (TCF) without any release whatsoever except medical reasons or by order of the court.
Execution of the period of detention is as follows; the court ordered each defendant to serve only 114 days at TCF. Each defendant was credited with the time they already served at TCF while awaiting the outcome of their cases, which was 114 days.
Each defendant was ordered to seek and secure gainful employment; pay a fine of $2,000 and refrain from consuming or possessing any alcohol or illegal drugs. They shall also submit themselves for drug testing upon the demand of Probation or any police officer.
The defendants were ordered to visit probation once a month and attend and completed substance abuse counseling.
Both defendants were told that the court is aware of their immigration status and the fact that they’re non US Nationals. If they violate any condition of their probation, the court will visit the issue of departure/ deportation.
According to the government’s case, shortly before midnight on Dec. 27, 2020 three police officers were patrolling the Nu’uuli area when they stopped a vehicle for speeding and broken taillights.
Officers also discovered that the driver of the vehicle did not possess a license and a check with the OMV system revealed that his driver’s license expired in 2015.
The driver was told by officers that the vehicle would be impounded due to the driver having no ID or valid driver’s license.
Upon impounding and inventorying the vehicle, officers discovered a hand rolled cigarette with green leaves in it, and a roach of like substance inside the center console, and a neon cut-up straw containing a white crystalline substance (which tested positive for meth) was found underneath the backseat.
The Vice and Narcotics Unit (VNU) was informed of the discovery for further investigation.
Sgt. Levi Tafaovale was assigned to investigate the matter and he interviewed police officers who initiated the traffic stop for more details, along with the two men who are at the center of the criminal investigation.
He also interviewed the other officers present during the traffic stop. Both officers told investigators that during the process of the inventory and search, they observed a black sling bag around Wayne’s neck at the time of the inventory, but at some point between the inventory and the booking process, the bag was given to Johnny (the brother.
When asked about the incident, the Banse brothers said they wished to remain silent and refused to make a statement to investigators.
Wayne was then booked and his property inventoried. During the process, a marijuana roach was discovered inside his right pocket. He was later transported to the TCF.
During his booking process, Johnny was observed carrying a black sling bag and was asked to who, it belonged and he replied it was his.
Johnny was then booked and his property was inventoried and a simoi baggie containing 11 hand rolled marijuana joints was found in his left pocket. Discovered inside the sling bag was a glass pipe (commonly used to smoke meth) and loose green leafy substances.
It was during the PX this week when the government called their only witness, Sgt. Tafaovale, the lead investigator in this case.
According to Sgt. Tafaovale’s statement, during the investigation, a test was conducted on the discovered substances and tests revealed that the white crystalline substance tested positive for meth while the green leafy substance tested positive for Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), an active compound in the controlled substance marijuana.
After hearing the evidence, the court was satisfied with the evidence in the case to boundit over to the High Court for further court proceedings where the two later pled guilty to reduced charges.