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Two cases resolved, inmates released to their families in time for New Year

fili@samoanews.com

Two defendants who have been incarcerated for less than a year while their separate cases were going through the court system, were released yesterday just in time to spend the New Year with their families after the High Court yesterday handed down sentencing that didn’t require them to spend any more time at the Territorial Correctional Facility.

Both cases were presided over by Associate Justice Lyle Richmond, who was flanked at the bench by Associate Judge Mamea Sala Jr.

MIKAELE AULAUMEA

The first case is against Mikaele Aulaumea, who pled guilty last month to stealing, a class C felony punishable by seven years imprisonment, a $5,000 fine or both. He has been in custody for almost nine months, unable to post bail since his arrest.

Under a plea agreement the defendant admitted that he was involved in the break-in and stealing of items at two business establishments in Leone.

Richmond during sentencing said that information on file shows that two juveniles, who initiated this crime, are not being prosecuted by the government. However, he said the defendant went along with it and alcohol was a definite contributing factor for the bad choice Aulaumea made.

For the nearly nine months Aulaumea has spent in custody, Richmond said the court thinks this is sufficient jail time, and the defendant was sentenced to seven years imprisonment with execution suspended. He was then placed on five years probation under several conditions.

Among the conditions is that he serve 28 months at TCF — which was stayed and time already served has been credited to the jail term. He was also ordered to be a law abiding citizen, attend and complete alcohol counseling classes, and be subject to random testing for alcohol and drugs.

Prior to sentencing, Aualumea was given a chance to address the court where he apologized for his crime and apologized to his family for what he has done. He also apologized to the families who owned the stores, as they were hurt due to his actions.

He asked the court for leniency so he could return home to improve his life and find a job to care for his mother and young son. He said the time he was in jail was a waste of life and he wants to change that.

His attorney Public Defender Ruth Risch-Fuatagavi told the court that her client does not have a criminal record, has accepted responsibility for his action, and had a good employment record prior to his arrest.

She said alcohol played a role in this incident and her client understands that what he did “was seriously wrong”, requesting a probative sentence for him. She said Aulaumea has great possibilities in his life but he made a “stupid, stupid mistake”. She said having her client continue to remain behind bars for a long time will not help his future.

Assistant Attorney General Cecilia Reyna said the almost nine months that the defendant has been in custody has “already opened his eyes” to the bad side of life at TCF. She supported a probative sentence, but requested the court to impose restitution of $18,000 for damages to be paid to the victims.

However, Richmond said there is nothing in court records dealing with damages to be paid and scheduled for Jan. 30 a status hearing to find out if the defendant has gained employment. He said the government can raise at that time, the issue of restitution.

IOPU TIALINO

Iopu Tialino, who pled guilty last month to unlawful possession of marijuana has apologized to the court for his crime and promised never to commit this crime again. Tialino asked to be released so he could return home to care for his wife, who depends on him financially. He asked the court and his family for forgiveness.

Risch-Fuatagavi asked for probative sentencing, saying that her client has no prior record, was gainfully employed prior to his arrest and he supports his wife and children financially.

Considering the defendant’s age (which is late 50s), with no prior criminal record and the small amount of marijuana found on him, Asst. A.G. Reyna also requested a probative sentence with no additional jail tIme.

In fashioning the sentence in this case, Richmond said the court took into consideration that the defendant had a good life and a job prior to his arrest. He said the court also took note of the defendant’s promise not to commit this crime again. 

Richmond said the crime in which the defendant pled guilty is a class D felony punishable by up to five years imprisonment, up to a $5,000 fine or both. The defendant was sentenced to three  years in jail but execution was suspended and he was placed on five years probation, under several conditions which include that he serve 12 months in jail. That, however is also stayed, as long as he complies with all other conditions of probation.

He must pay a $2,000 fine, not commit any crime, not be involved with any drugs or alcohol, and remains subject to random drug and alcohol testing, and his home and property are subject to search.

A status hearing is set for Jan. 30 to find out if the defendant has found employment and how he is going to pay the fine.

Richmond ordered the marijuana destroyed in front of the court marshall, who would then file a report with the court.



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