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Court Report

reporters@samoanews.com

POLICE OFFICER TALIA SELOTI APPEARS IN COURT

The second Police Officer, Talia Seloti, charged in connection with the stealing case from Ace Hardware made his initial appearance in the District Court yesterday. Seloti, who’s represented by Sharron Rancourt, is charged together with Police officer Si’ufa’alele Sai.

Officer Seloti is charged with felony stealing, embezzlement and tampering with physical evidence. He’s held on a surety bond of $10,000.

According to the government’s case, the incident started when two juveniles were reported to police from Ace Hardware after they allegedly took two IPODS in November 2010. The government claims that the girls were taken to the Tafuna West Substation, where they surrendered the two IPODs to the police.

It’s alleged that Sergeant Solova’a Mageo, the watch commander, assigned the Ace Hardware case to officer Seloti and officer Sai.

Court filings state that Sgt Mageo gave the Nano Ipod to Seloti with the instructions to fill out a property report and turn it into the Evidence Custodian.

It’s alleged that when Detective Vaina Vaofanua with the Criminal Investigation Division interviewed Officer Seloti, he allegedly confirmed that he received the Nano IPOD from his watch commander and he took it home and did not prepare a property report on it.

According to the government’s case the other co-defendant, officer Sai, was told by Mageo to fill out a property report and turn the shuffle IPOD into the Evidence Custodian. However, officer Sai told the investigators that she placed the shuffle IPOD into her locker and someone broke into her locker and took it.

Officer Sai is facing embezzlement and tampering with physical evidence. According to the government’s case the total value of the two IPODs is $278.99.

Officer Seloti will appear in the District Court next Tuesday for his preliminary examination. This hearing is for District Court Judge John Ward to determine whether the government has sufficient evidence to have this case bound over to the High Court. Officer Sai’s case is pending in the High Court for pre-trial conference.

(The Samoan version of this story, “TALIA SELOTI”, is published in today’s Samoa News, under Court Briefs, Wednesday, May 02, 2012, and can be found on samoanews.com.)

ARSONIST PLACED ON PROBATION

A man who burned his wife’s clothes last year December was ordered by the High Court not to harm his wife and children, verbally, physically, or emotionally.

The defendant, who pleaded guilty to misdemeanor arson, was sentenced to two years probation by Associate Justice Lyle L Richmond, who was accompanied on the bench by Associate Judge Mamea.

Samoa News will not name the defendant in order to protect the identity of the victim.

The defendant, a man in his 40’s from Pago Pago, apologized to the court, and to his wife, for his actions. Assistant Public Defender Mike White recommended that the court place the defendant on probation.

Also revealed in court was that the defendant has a record, and has been convicted of misdemeanor assault and felony driving where he had been on probation and successfully completed his probation term. Associate Justice Richmond noted that misdemeanor arson carries a jail term of up to one year in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000.

The Associate Justice said the defendant was drunk and while under the influence of alcohol he carried out his anger by burning his wife’s clothes. Richmond noted the court’s only concern was that the fire could have spread, and luckily that was not the case. 

The defendant was sentenced to two years probation under the condition that he pay a fine of $200 within a six month period. The initial fine was $500 however Richmond deducted $300 for the defendant’s good behavior and compliance with conditions of his probation. He was also ordered to undergo and complete counseling for drugs and alcohol, as well as anger management.

Another condition of probation is that the defendant must not consume alcohol, or take any illegal substance and he’s subject to random testing. The probation officer or a police officer can search the defendant’s home, vehicle and property for illegal drugs.

The defendant was initially charged with arson which is a felony and public peace disturbance, a misdemeanor.

However in the plea deal with the government, the defendant pled guilty to the amended charge of misdemeanor arson, which is a lesser charge, while the government moved to dismiss the public peace disturbance charge.

During his plea agreement hearing the defendant admitted in court that he burned his wife’s clothes out of anger. “I came home and my wife had left to live with her family, so I just burned the clothes along with the wooden box,” he said.

“The clothes I burned were the clothes my wife no longer used, they were stored to be given away”, he added. The defendant was represented by Assistant Public Defender Mike White while prosecuting the case was Assistant Attorney General Cecilia Reyna.

CRYSTAL TEO DENIES EMBEZZLEMENT CHARGES

The former station manager for Dependable Global Express (DGX) Company, Crystal Te’o denied the charges against her, pleading not guilty, when she was arraigned in the High Court yesterday morning before Chief Justice Michael Kruse.

Te’o, who is being held in custody on bail of $25,000, is charged with two embezzlement counts. Each embezzlement charge carries a jail-term of up to seven years and/or a fine of $5,000 or a fine equal to twice the amount gained from the crime up to $20,000 — or both fine and imprisonment.

According to the government’s case, defendant Te’o was employed by the DGX Company from June 2009 to April 6, 2012. It’s alleged that Te’o rented a vehicle using the company name and designating DGX as the responsible party for payment, however she rented the car for her personal use.

According to the government’s case, Te’o made payments in excess of $40,000 for over a year using company checks payable to the Tautai rental car company. Court filings state that Te’o also made payments to the Nu’uuli Service Gas Station for fuel for both company and personal vehicles, although the corporate office had not approved for Te’o to open an account at this gas station.

According to the government’s case, DGX records from February 12, 2012 to April 6, 2012 showed numerous payments made to the rental car company with a total of $24,725 in payments. The police also obtained invoices from the gas station on the DGX account showing the rental car that Te’o rented received fuel at least 22 times with a total of $900.47.

According to the government’s case the totals are subject to revision as documentation is still being collected by the police. Te’o, who’s represented by Assistant Public Defender Mike White will have her pre-trail conference on June 20, 2012. Prosecuting the case is Assistant Attorney General Cecilia Reyna.

(The Samoan version of this story, “CRYSTAL TE’O”, was published in today’s Samoa News, under Tala o Fa’amasinoga, Wednesday, May 02, 2012, and can be found on samoanews.com.)



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