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Court Report

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LOMITUSI FILIGA

Chief Justice Michael Kruse in handing down sentencing on Friday for Lomitusi Filiga, who had been found guilty of being armed with an unlicensed firearm, noted the government should enforce the gun law that is already in place.

“I’ve seen funerals parade right in front of the court house, (Kruse did a demonstration, holding his fingers like a gun) boom boom boom and nothing is done about it,” said the CJ.

He added that the statute on arms is limited to certain weapons, and then placed Filiga on probation and ordered the defendant to pay a fine of $1,000.

Filiga, who was charged for pointing a gun at a relative in Fagatogo, apologized to the court and said that he was deeply remorseful of his actions. The defendant pleaded to the court for a chance to continue on carrying out his duties as a father and husband in his family.

He was initially charged with unlawful use of a weapon, a felony, along with misdemeanor charges of possession of an unlicensed firearm, unlawful possession of ammunition, third-degree assault, and public peace disturbance.

In his plea agreement, the defendant pled guilty to possession of an unlicensed firearm, unlawful possession of ammunition and third-degree assault, while the government moved to dismiss the remaining charges.

The defendant’s lawyer Assistant Public Defender Leslie Cardin pleaded with the court to place the defendant on probation. She noted the incident occurred after a funeral and the purpose of the gun was to kill pigs for the funeral. The Assistant Public Defender added that alcohol and guns do not mix well, but the gun did not have bullets at the time of the incident.

Assistant Attorney General Cecilia Reyna said the incident that occurred is a very dangerous one. She added the defendant had the gun in his vehicle and there were bullets in that gun in some point. She recommended the defendant serve a short jail-time, given the seriousness of this case.

Lt. Pele Uia, who oversees the police evidence room brought the handgun into court, and the CJ ordered that it be destroyed in the presence of the court’s Marshal.

According to the government’s case the defendant pointed the gun at the complaining witness, and after the incident occurred, the complaining witness walked over to the police station and filed a complaint.

JOE LEOTA

One of the two defendants charged for stealing more than 200 cases of Wahoo from StarKist Samoa’s warehouse entered into an agreement with the government yesterday.

Joe Leota pled guilty to the amended charge of burglary second degree and stealing. The second degree burglary was amended from a first degree burglary charge.

Chief Justice Michael Kruse who was accompanied on the bench by Chief Associate Judge Logoai Siaki and Associate Judge Fa’amausili Pomele accepted the plea agreement and scheduled sentencing for the defendant on April 20, 2012.

Leota in his guilty plea admitted that he removed cases of Wahoo from the StaKist warehouse on August of last year with the assistance of his co-defendant Michael Leatigaga. Leaitigaga is charged with stealing and receiving stolen property.

According to the government’s case Leota removed more than 200 wahoo cases from the cannery warehouse that were then loaded into Leatigaga's truck. Court filing states that Leatigaga allegedly sold cases to at least two stores. According to the government, police were able to recover half of the cases that were removed from the warehouse.

CJ CONTINUES SENTENCING FOR ELDERLY ASIAN MAN IN SEXUAL ABUSE CASE

Chief Justice Michael Kruse continued sentencing for Daniel Chang upon receiving six reference letters on behalf of the 82-year old man who pled guilty to second degree sexual abuse in connection with an incident where the defendant touched two young girls inappropriately.

The defendant was initially facing five felony charges of first degree sexual abuse and endangering the welfare of a child, which is a misdemeanor. However in a deal with the government he pleaded guilty to second degree sexual abuse, which was amended from the first degree charge, and endangering the welfare of a child, a misdemeanor, while the government moved to dismiss the remaining charges.

The defendant’s son, Daniel Chang Jr. took the witness stand and apologized on behalf of his elderly father. He said he felt the incident was his fault because his elderly father was left alone while he (the son) was working.

The son added that this is the first time an incident like this has happened in his father’s entire life. Chang Jr. said his mother is still in the mainland trying to attain US citizenship so she can return and live in American Samoa with his father.

The defendant’s son pleaded with the court for leniency for his elderly father.

Private lawyer Sharron Rancourt who represented the defendant noted that the defendant has strong family support and this is the first time an incident such as this has occurred. She said that the defendant is a strong supporter of his community in the territory, and noted the defendant has an exemplary record. The defense lawyer also presented to the court six reference letters on behalf of her client.

Acting Attorney General Mitzie Jessop Folau said this particular case is very difficult given the defendant’s age. However, the Acting AG said, the two girls involved are eight and ten years of age. She added that the father of the victims sensed negative changes in his daughters following the incident.

The Acting AG said generally the government would ask for jail time, but given the defendant’s age it would be detrimental to place him in jail. She recommended the defendant be placed on probation and be registered as a sex offender.

Kruse called the lawyers to the bench and after a few minutes speaking with attorneys, the CJ rescheduled sentencing for the elderly man.

CHURCH MINISTER APPEARS IN HIGH COURT

The CCCAS Faleniu Reverend Ali’ioaiga Filioali’i has denied the charge of vehicular homicide against him during his arraignment in High Court, before Chief Justice Michael Kruse.

The church minister is charged in connection with a car accident, which led to the death of a 12-year old girl on September 19, 2010. Vehicular homicide is a felony which is punishable by up to five years in jai,l or a fine of up to $5,000, or both.

Ali’ioaiga will have his pre-trial conference on May 10, 2012.

According to the government’s case the defendant was the driver of a F-150 pick-up truck that struck the victim who was on the sidewalk with her friend along the Faleniu public highway on September 19, 2010.

Court document says the government claims the victim was struck by the front right fender of the truck, and witnesses say the truck was was traveling at a high rate of speed.

 According to the government’s case the victim was rushed to LBJ following the accident and slipped into a coma dying 11 days later. An autopsy was conducted on the victim, and the cause of death was determined to be from blunt force injury to the head.

Ali’ioaiga is represented by Fiti Sunia, while prosecuting is Assistant Attorney General Cable Poag.



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