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Young woman convicted of stealing cell phone placed on probation

American Samoa High Court building

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — A young woman convicted of stealing a cell phone from a store was sentenced to two years probation subject to several conditions including paying $1,000 to the court and $185 restitution for the cell phone she stole.

Elsie Meredith, 28, appeared before Associate Justice Fiti Sunia last week for sentencing. She was represented by Assistant Public Defender Rob McNeil while prosecuting the case was Assistant Attorney General Laura Garvey.

Meredith, who was released on her own recognizance after the court accepted her change of plea last month, was originally charged with one count of stealing, a class C felony, punishable by imprisonment of up to 7 years, a $5,000 fine or pursuant to A.S.C.A 46.2101, a fine equal to twice the amount of gain form the commission of said crime, up to a maximum of $20,000, or both such fine and imprisonment.

However, in a plea agreement with the government, also accepted by the court this week, Meredith agreed to pled guilty to the amended count of stealing, a class A misdemeanor, punishable by imprisonment of up to one year, a fine of up to $1,000, or both.

With her guilty plea, Meredith admits that on April 28, 2020 she appropriated a Samsung cell phone valued at over $100.

Defense attorney McNeill asked the court for a probated sentence saying that his client was truly remorseful for her action and she had served 105 days at the Tafuna Correctional Facility (TCF) while awaiting the outcome of her case. She’s also a well-educated young woman who received her BA from the University of Hawaii at Hilo.

The prosecutor echoed McNeill’s submission and asked the court to adopt the recommendation by the Pre Sentence Report (PSR). She also told the court that they had already discussed the issue of restitution with the defendant and the defendant agreed to pay $185 for the stolen cell phone.

In delivering his decision, Sunia said that the circumstances of the case were that the defendant took a cell phone from a store without the authority of the owner. Except for a prior traffic citation, Sunia said the defendant came before the court with a clean record.

She’s a well educated young woman who completed a college degree and she also comes from a good family. In determining a suitable sentence for the defendant, Sunia said that the court has to look at the whole picture of the defendant’s background.

In doing so, the court believes that the defendant is a suitable candidate for a probated sentence.

Meredith was sentenced to one-year imprisonment, a fine and restitution. Execution of imprisonment was suspended and the defendant was placed on probation for two years subject to several conditions.

The court ordered her not to set foot in the store compound or try to contact any of the store employees. She must be a law abiding person and visit probation once a month.

She was ordered to pay the fine of $1,000 and restitution of $185 within the first 12 months of her probation and she needs to seek gainful employment.

“We know that you know better and what we do in this court, we put our trust on a defendant. But we only give one chance and if you fail to comply with all these conditions, you will be ordered to serve the suspended period of detention,” Sunia told the defendant.

With the two payments the court ordered the defendant to pay, Sunia said, “We want our money first. We order you to pay restitution but pay the fine first.”