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With stern words court places Siaumau Sr. on probation

He appealed for leniency, saying he should start acting as a ‘tagata matua’
reporters@samoanews.com

Eliota Siaumau Sr. was fined and placed on probation for two years for driving under the influence and attempting to elude police following an incident which occurred last year during the holidays.

Siaumau Sr. was initially charged with resisting arrest — a felony — and driving under the influence, which is a misdemeanor.

However in a plea deal with the government earlier last month, the defendant pled guilty to a DUI and attempting to elude police, which was amended from the resisting arrest charge.

Sentencing for Siaumau Sr. was handed down by Chief Justice Michael Kruse, who was accompanied by Associate Judge Faamausili Pomele.

After the plea agreement hearing last month Kruse ordered the defendant not to operate a vehicle in the territory. Siaumau apologized for the crimes he has committed, telling the court he is becoming an old man and pleading for leniency. 

“What happened has taught me a lesson and it has enabled me to make the right choices in life,” he said.

Siaumau added that he believes that this will not happen again because, as he is getting older, he should start acting like an older person.

The defendant’s wife, Stella Siaumau, also took the witness stand and apologized on her husband's behalf. She told the court that her husband is a hard working man and the livelihood of their family and the success of their business depend entirely upon him. Mrs. Siaumau pled with the court to allow her husband to return home to his children, to work on bettering their family.

 “The mistakes we make in life ... we learn from them ... and it allows us to rearrange priorities in life,” she said.

Assistant Public Defender Michael White told the court that what the defendant did was a mistake and that the defendant was under the influence of alcohol. He added that as a mitigating factor Siaumau Sr. does not have any previous felony convictions.

Acting Attorney General Mitzie Jessop-Folau told the court the defendant is a mature man who is capable of making his own decisions, and blaming alcohol as a factor “is just a poor excuse”.

She added that three of Siaumau Sr.’s children (Eliott Jr, Thomas and Barritt) have tangled with the law due to the defendant’s example. “He just does not care about the law,” she said.

Folau argued for a sentence that would include some jail time citing Siaumau's prior criminal record, which consists of several misdemeanor convictions, and given the fact that the defendant disregards the law.

“Disregarding the law will not be tolerated by the court and the government,” she stated.

The Acting AG reminded the court that Siaumau Sr. was facing felony charges although he was not convicted.

White told the court that it was not fair for the prosecution to bring in the defendant’s children because they are old enough to make their own choices. White added that he is not blaming alcohol for the defendant’s actions, adding that the defendant’s license suspension for a period of six months is a punishment for him.

Chief Justice Kruse and Judge Fa'amausili, after considering the pre-sentence report prepared by the court's Probation Office, the arguments of counsel, and the testimonies of the defendant and his wife, asked Mrs. Siaumau to come forward and sat next to her husband.

Kruse said to the defendant, “As Judge Fa'amausili and I approached a sentence, what registered with us was your comment about being an elderly person, and we took that to mean that you're trying to speak to us as a father of the family.”

The CJ added that he has asked Mrs. Siaumau to come forward, for he has seen her several times in court on the witness stand. “She's testified this morning on your behalf (Siaumau Sr.) and she's testified on other occasions on behalf of your children.”

He added the defendant has entered two misdemeanor convictions and the prosecution has alluded to a number of felony charges that were brought against Siaumau Sr., which the court acknowledged were all ‘not guilty’ verdicts.  

The Chief Justice then said "One of the most difficult sentences that he was involved with was when Junior (Eliota Siaumau Jr) was before the court.

“We listened to testimony I believe ... from the mother and also from his wife ... and what I sensed from those testimonies was that there was tension in Junior's loyalty on the one hand to you, and on the other hand, his obligations to his wife and children.

“Today, you are appealing to us as a father, a "tagata matua"; We're appealing to you as the father of these children we have sent to prison." 

“With regards to the many prior instances in which Siaumau had gotten involved with the police, the Chief Justice said he’s finally gotten some understanding of his situation with the Police. 

“You have the perception that the Police have been picking on you and your family, but the response to that is not to disregard the law; the response to that is to talk to a lawyer. 

“But when you feel that disregarding the law is the only option, you teach your kids something. 

That's why I've asked your wife to be here, for you to appeal to her as a ‘tagata matua’.

“Hopefully the kids will have a different take on the law.”

The Chief Justice then suspended the imposition of sentence for a period of two years and placed Siaumau on probation for a term of two years under the conditions that he remain clean, which means no alcohol or controlled substances unless prescribed by a duly licensed doctor.

The defendant will be subject to random testing for alcohol or controlled substances at the demand of a probation officer and his license was suspended for six months. 

Siaumau Sr. was also ordered to pay a fine of $250 for Driving Under The Influence; $250 for attempting to elude a Police Officer, and he must visit  the Office of Probation once every two months, or more frequently as the Probation Officer may require.



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