Woman convicted of drug charges begs for leniency
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — A woman convicted for violating local drug laws is ordered to serve 180 days at the Territorial Correctional Facility (TCF). Malaetina Laulu, 44, who has been in custody since her arrest last month, unable to post a $5,000 surety bond, appeared in court last week for sentencing.
She was initially charged with one count of unlawful possession of methamphetamine, a felony punishable by up to 20 years in jail, a fine of up to $20,000 or both.
But under a plea agreement with the government, accepted by the court last week, Laulu pled guilty to the amended charge of unlawful possession of methamphetamine, a class D felony, punishable by up to 5 years imprisonment, a fine of up to $5,000 or both.
Laulu admits that on Sept. 20, 2020 she had on her, a straw and glass pipe containing meth.
When given the chance to speak, Laulu apologized and begged for a second chance so she can return home to rebuild her life. She said she made a terrible mistake, which ruined her life and her family.
The court told Laulu that she looked familiar. “When was the last time we met? the court asked. Laulu responded that the last time she appeared in court was when she argued a motion to travel off-island for her mother’s funeral but her request was denied by the court.
The defense attorney asked the court to adopt the recommendation in the Pre Sentence Report (PSR) and sentence his client to probation. The prosecutor echoed the defense’s submission and told the court that the defendant is a suitable candidate for a probated sentence.
The case against Laulu came to light after police got a call from a business owner, saying one of his rental vehicles was being used by a couple suspected of conducting illegal activities.
Cops were given the identity of the woman and it was learned that she was already under police surveillance, on suspicion that she was connected to a male inmate who allegedly escaped from confinement and shot a man in Leone two years ago.
The rental vehicle was spotted and eventually pulled over on the main road. During a search of the car, police found a white substance inside a clear plastic baggie. The driver, Laulu, was then arrested.
The court sentenced Laulu to 5 years imprisonment. Execution of sentence is suspended and she is placed on probation for 5 years subject to several conditions.
She is to serve 20 months at the TCF. However, execution of detention is suspended, and Laulu is to serve the first 180 days. The remainder of her jail term is stayed until further order of the court.
Upon release from the TCF, Laulu is to visit Probation once a month. She is also to remain drug and alcohol free. “Ma’am, you messed up your life because of your meth addiction,” the court told Laulu, who responded, “I’m sorry, Your Honor.”
The court replied, “Don’t apologize to us because if you don’t comply with these conditions, you will go to prison for 5 years.”
Laulu was sentenced to 6 months probation by the District Court in 2018, after she pled guilty to public peace disturbance. This case had to do with Laulu threatening a young couple with a machete for spreading rumors that she was involved in selling drugs in the village.