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Man receives six months for burglarizing Tafuna High School office

reporters@samoanews.com

A young man who was accompanied by juveniles while breaking into Tafuna High School’s main office last year has been sentenced to six months in jail.

 Sentencing for the defendant was handed down by Associate Justice Lyle L Richmond, who was accompanied on the bench by Associate Judge Mamea Sala Jr.

Pelasio So’otaga was initially charged with first degree burglary and property damage, however he entered a guilty plea to an amended charge of burglary in the second-degree while the remaining charge was dismissed.

 So’otaga apologized to the court, his family and the Department of Education for his actions. The young man pleaded with the court for a second chance, asking to be able to return home and find a job to care for his parents and complete his education.

Public Defender Ruth Risch Fuatagavi requested a probated sentence for her client. The public defender noted this was an unfortunate case in which So’otaga was hanging out with the wrong crowd, who were juveniles. Fuatagavi said So’otaga accepted full responsibility for his actions. Assistant Attorney General Cable Poag also recommended probation for the defendant.

 Richmond sentenced the defendant to seven years in jail, however the sentence was suspended and the defendant was placed on five years probation under the condition that So’otaga serves six months in jail.

 The defendant is credited for the five months he has been in jail, with one more month left to complete his sentence. He was also ordered to pay a fine of $1,000.

The three co-defendant juveniles involved in this matter were already sentenced by the court and they were ordered to each pay $50 restitution.  

 In December 2011 during So’otaga’s change of plea hearing, the defendant admitted in court that he and the minors had broken into the office because the juveniles were upset with a high school counselor. So’otaga said they had intended to vandalize the office; however when they broke into the office, they were seen by security guards and fled the scene.

 



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