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Young man released after 15 month incarceration waiting for trial on stealing charges

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Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — A 29-year-old man convicted of stealing was released from custody last week, after the High Court determined that the 15 months he served at the Territorial Correctional Facility (TCF) to await sentencing was enough.

Pule Unasa, under a plea agreement with the government, pled guilty to the amended charge of stealing, a class C felony, punishable by not more than 7 years imprisonment, and/ or a fine of not more than $5,000.

With his guilty plea, Unasa admits that sometime during Jan. to Nov. 10th, 2019, he misappropriated property that belonged to another person.

During sentencing, Unasa apologized to all, including the people of American Samoa for his behavior and asked for forgiveness, noting, “Please, I want to go home to my family.” His father and his aunty, both present in court, were in tears when Unasa apologized.

Defense attorney asked the court to give Unasa another chance. He said his client is only 29 years old, very immature, and he has advised him to think about his future. He said his client is a suitable candidate for probation. The prosecutor echoed the statement.

The court said that while Unasa is young, the pre-sentence report shows that he's had a prior run-in with the law.

“At the time it seemed minor and the punishment that was ordered in those cases also seemed minor… now you’re in the big league, so the offenses are no longer considered minor, and the punishment will no longer be minor, and you ought to keep that in mind as you go forward,” the court told the defendant.

Unasa was placed on probation for 5 years under certain conditions. He has to remain law abiding at all times, visit the probation office once a month, and serve 20 months at the TCF.

“You will be credited the 15 months you have already served; the balance of 5 months will be stayed as long as you comply with all conditions of your probation,” the court told Unasa, who was also ordered to pay a $1,000 fine within 6 months, and secure gainful employment.

“If you violate any condition of your probation, your chance will be over and you will go to prison for 5 years,” the court advised Unasa.