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Court Report

reporters@samoanews.com

HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT ENTERS GUILTY PLEA

A high school student who was charged after school officials found illegal drugs in his possession at school will be sentenced on April 19, 2012. Eighteen-year old Ioane Tu’umalo of Pago Pago pled guilty to the amended charge of unlawful possession of a controlled substance, a class D felony that holds a lesser penalty than the initial charge. Associate Justice Lyle Richmond accepted the plea deal between the government and the student.

Tu’umalo told the court that when he went into the bathroom at school, he saw a plastic vial, and when he picked it up, he found it contained marijuana. He added that when he went to the cafeteria, where he had been caught smoking earlier by a school official, the official searched him and found the plastic vial in his pocket. According to court documents, there were four marijuana joints inside the vial.

Public Defender Ruth Risch Fuatagavi asked the court to consider releasing the defendant on his own recognizance with the supervision of his mother. She added that the defendant has no prior record, and the quantity of the marijuana found was very small.

Assistant Attorney General Cable Poag said the government does not object to the defense lawyer’s request.

He said given the quantity is very small, he will recommend placing the defendant on probation. The judges took a brief recess and when they returned, Richmond denied the request and said it’s better if the defendant stay at the Tafuna Correctional Facility. The student is in custody with bail set at $10,000.

TAVITA TALI

Chief Justice Michael Kruse has ordered a probation officer to make a report regarding an incident where convicts were drinking homemade brew with other inmates at the Tafuna Correctional Facility. Kruse’s order came after the inmate alleged to be involved with the brew incident— Tavita Tali— asked the court to be released from jail so he can find a job to pay the fine which was ordered in his case.

Tali was convicted for conspiracy to commit forgery, for which he’s serving a 20-month jail sentence as a condition of his probation. Thirty-year old Tali allowed the use of his American Samoa birth certificate, Social Security number and hospital card to be used to create a fraudulent Certificate of Identity for a Tongan man who used it to travel off island.

He has been incarcerated since November 2010. Public Defender Ruth Risch Fuatagavi said that aside from a slight misstep, Tali has been a good inmate at TCF. She said the defendant wants to get his life back on track and wants to find a job to he can pay his fine in this matter.

The misstep the Public Defender mentioned is the homemade brew incident at the TCF with which the defendant was involved, causing him to be placed in maximum security. The Chief Justice said the court would need more information regarding this incident because it doesn't look favorable for Tali. 

POLICE OFFICER APISAI ATOE

The jury trial for police officer Apisai Atoe is now scheduled for July 16, 2012. The cop has been charged on allegations that he was trying to cover up an alleged sexual incident involving his uncle, Mike Kim. Kim is accused of having sex with a 17-year old girl against her will, and it’s alleged he gave the victim $100 when he was done.

The government claims that Atoe had asked the victim’s father to go to the police and withdraw his complaint against Kim. Atoe is charged with witness tampering and concealing an offense.

Associate Justice Lyle L Richmond who was accompanied on the bench by Associate Judge Mamea Sala Jr scheduled the trial date.  Also charged in this same incident is Motau Samani, who allegedly told the victim that he had a job for her and took the victim to where Kim lived and left her there. The lead prosecutor for this case is Deputy Attorney General Mitzie Jessop Folau.

LAGA TUI

A pretrial conference for a man accused of striking another man with a machete has been scheduled for April 5, 2012. Laga Tui, a man in his 20s, is facing first-degree assault after he allegedly struck another man with a machete. The incident is alleged to have occurred December 3, 2011 in Mapusaga Fou.

According to court filings, the defendant, who was intoxicated, was upset after the complaining witness told him to get off his property. It’s alleged that the defendant left the scene and returned with a machete, and then struck the complaining witness on his head, arm and shoulder. The victim underwent emergency surgery as a result of the alleged attack.



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