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Court Report

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MAREKO MALAEFONO LEMAFA JAILED FOR ASSAULT

“Often the court hears cases with the explanation sounding like…..excuses” says Chief Justice Michael Kruse when handing down sentencing for a man accused of striking a female with a beer bottle, over a rosary.

Mareko Malaefono Lemafa was initially charged with second degree assault and public peace disturbance however he entered a guilty plea to the assault count while the PPD charge was dismissed.

The assault charge, a class D felony, carries a jail term of up to five years, and a fine of up to $5,000, or both fine and jail term. The defendant pleaded for another chance to return to his home in Faga’alu to care for his parents.

He apologized to the victim, his parents, the Priest and Catechist of the Faga’alu Catholic Church for his actions. Assistant Public Defender Mike White told the court that the defendant is one of those people who just can’t handle alcohol.

“Because when he drinks, he cannot control himself…. I told him that he has to decide whether it’s alcohol or his family, if he chooses alcohol he’ll end up in jail” said White.

The Assistant PD asked the court to place his client on probation.

Assistant Attorney General Cecilia Reyna did not wish to make a recommendation and left it up to the court’s discretion.

Chief Justice Kruse said thankfully the victim in this case suffered injuries that were not serious, however the beer bottle was directed at her face, which broke her tooth.

Kruse sentenced the defendant to five years in jail however execution of sentence was suspended and the defendant placed on probation on several conditions.

The Chief Justice noted that the defendant may be granted work release if he’s gainfully employed, which does not include working on a family farm.

The defendant was sentenced to undergo 28 months in jail, successfully complete 12 step alcohol counseling and anger management courses. Other conditions are that the defendant must not consume alcohol and he’s subject to random testing for alcohol. He was also ordered to visit his probation officer regularly.

The victim told police she had pleaded with the defendant to return her rosary, however the defendant got angry and threw the beer bottle at her.

STATUS ON PLEA AGREEMENT IN MURDER CASE

Two of the three defendants charged in the brutal beating death of Sio Faumui were scheduled to have their plea agreement hearing yesterday in the High Court. The two defendants, Nemaia Poamo and Migo Misa are facing second degree murder along with Sefo Siaulaiga, whose jury trial is scheduled for next year.

The three defendants were initially charged separately, however during a pre-trial conference period, the government moved to consolidate the three cases, which all three defendants objected to, and they were to proceed with this matter to jury trial.

However earlier this week the court was informed by Assistant Public Defenders Mike White and Leslie Cardin that their clients, Poamo and Misa have accepted the plea agreement from the government.

Associate Justice Lyle L Richmond and Associate Judge Mamea Sala Jr told the parties that the court would not proceed with the plea agreement until they abide by the order issued back in April, ordering the government and the three defendants to provide the court with written statements.

Richmond noted that in the plea agreement between the government, Poamo and Misa, there is a substantial reduction in the criminal charges.

He asked the government for additional information, wherein the prosecutor stated that a copy of the autopsy will be given to the court. Richmond noted that the parties have to comply with the order before this matter can proceed.

He told the defendants that a date will be made known upon the court receiving the written statements from Poamo and Misa. Deputy Attorney General Mitzie Jessop declined to discuss details of the plea agreement as it has yet to be announced in open court.

The government alleges that Siaulaiga, Misa and Poamo assaulted Faumui of Iliili with their hands and left him lying unconscious about 15 feet from the main road in Malaeimi. It’s alleged that Poamo and Siaulaiga further beat the victim with rocks and Misa used a beer bottle to strike Faumui’s face.

According to the government’s case, Poamo and Migo punched and kicked Faumui at least 15 to 20 times and Faumui suffered multiple facial injuries. All three have admitted to police that they assaulted Faumui, according to court affidavits.

MU MATU’U GOES TO TRIAL

The government’s case against Mu Matu’u, accused in the alleged burglarizing of the Leone High School classrooms, is scheduled to go to trial next year May. Matu’u is charged with first degree burglary, stealing and two charges of receiving stolen property on allegations that during the burglary, IMAC computers and laptops valued close to $5,000 were removed.

Assistant Public Defender Mike White informed the court that both parties have yet to come to a resolution in this case and asked for a jury trial date.

The government claims that on January 11, 2012 laptops, iMAC computers, keyboards and mouses were removed from Leone High School. During a police investigation, a juvenile found to be involved, told police that on January 10, 2012, he was with Matu’u and Carl Lafaele Tauili’ili when they burglarized the school and took off with the computers.

According to the government’s case, the juvenile said Tauili’ili drove the vehicle he was in with Matu’u. It’s alleged Matu’u acted as the lookout, while the juvenile entered the classroom and removed the computers and accessories. Matu’u denied any involvement when questioned by police and attempts to locate Tauili’ili were unsuccessful.

According to court filings, a week later another burglary occurred at Leone High School. This time, Matu’u admitted he was involved in the first burglary that occurred on January 10, 2012. The defendant told police he was the lookout, while the juvenile broke into the classroom and came out with the laptops.

The defendant admitted to police that he sold one of the laptops and received $60 and he was waiting for remaining payment of $120. The jury trial is scheduled for May 6, 2013.

JURY TRIAL IN ASG CASE AGAINST PENIAMINA OPETAIA POSTPONED

The government is asking the High Court for a  brief continuance in the Jury Trial of Peniamina Opetaia, charged in connection with a sexual case involving a 16 year old girl who was impregnated as a result of alleged sexual acts. The matter was presided over by Associate Justice Lyle L Richmond and Associate Judge Mamea Sala Jr.

The matter was called before the court, however the defendant was not present. Assistant Public Defender Mike White, who did not object to the government’s motion, noted that he was unaware that this case was scheduled to be heard yesterday.

Opetaia is charged together with the victim’s uncle, which Samoa News cannot name to protect the identity of the victim. Opetaia is charged with rape, sexual abuse first degree and endangering the welfare of a child.

Richmond rescheduled to hear the motion in this case next week Monday and told defense counsel to have the defendant, who is out on bail, be present in the court during the hearing on this matter.

Deputy Attorney General Mitzie Jessop told Samoa News the basis of the continuance is that the government is gathering evidence in this case.

According to the government’s case, this came to light when a relative of the victim filed a complaint with CID on February 27, 2012. The relative who reported the matter to police accused the Uncle as the one who got the 16-year-old girl pregnant.

It’s alleged that when police questioned the victim, she told police she had sexual intercourse with two men, her neighbor Opetaia and her uncle, the High Chief of the family.

The government claims Opetaia admitted to police that he met the victim in October 2011 but he did not have sex with her until December 2011 up to January 2012.

Associate Justice Richmond scheduled the jury trial on November 1, 2012. Deputy AG Mitzie Jessop told the court the government anticipates that this jury trial will be at least one day. The Uncle’s case is also pending in the High Court.

According to court filings the victim told police she also had sexual relationship with the 62-year-old man. Court filing states that the uncle instructed the victim not to say anything to anyone regarding the alleged sexual acts.

The Uncle refused to make a statement to police. The court filing also noted that the Uncle involved in this matter is a former teacher who was also convicted of sexual assault in September 1997.



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