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Court Report

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DRUG DEFENDANT PLACED ON PROBATION

A man who was arrested with his son in 2010 where police confiscated a 12-inch tall marijuana plant during a drug raid was sentenced yesterday before Chief Justice Michael Kruse.

Drug defendant Niue Niue who pled guilty to unlawful possession of a controlled substance, namely marijuana, apologized to the court yesterday for his actions.

Niue, who is in his 60s, is represented by Public Defender Ruth Risch Fuatagavi, who pleaded with the court on behalf of her client to place him on probation.

Fuatagavi told the court that Niue is a first time offender and he’s sincerely remorseful of his actions because of the effect upon his family.

“Niue’s behavior has created a poor example as the head of the family to children and his grandchildren and he regrets his actions and has accepted responsibility” said the Public Defender, who added that the defendant has acknowledged how his behavior has cost him his family. Niue was charged together with his son, Feleti Niue, when the police raided their Nu’uuli home in 2010.

Assistant Attorney General Cable Poag told the court that he agrees with recommendation to sentence Niue to probation, given that he has no prior criminal record, given the amount of marijuana that was confiscated was minimal, and considering the defendant’s age.

The Chief Justice asked to see the evidence surrounding this case, given that the defendant was initially charged with unlawful possession with intent to distribute.

A brief recess was  carried out while the court awaited Police Evidence Custodian Sgt Pele Uia, who was present in the court room, to fetch the evidence from the police evidence room. Sgt Uia arrived and presented the court with the evidence of a small quantity of marijuana and marijuana seeds. 

Kruse noted that given the evidence presented, the court will look at this matter as a case of personal use. Kruse sentenced Niue to five years in jail, with execution suspended and the defendant is placed on probation of five years under the condition that he serve 20 months in jail. The 20 months jail term set for the defendant will also be stayed, said the Chief Justice. Niue was ordered to pay a fine of $3,000 as a condition of his probation.

Within the five years probation, Niue is ordered not to consume any alcohol or illegal substance unless is it prescribed by a physician for medical reasons.

A police officer or probation officer can conduct random testing on the defendant, his vehicle, home and property for alcohol or illegal substance. Kruse also ordered the defendant not to enter any tavern or bar or congregate with people who are under the influence of alcohol or involved with illegal substances.

Niue must also undergo alcohol and drug counseling and must remain a law abiding citizen. Kruse ordered that the drugs surrounding this matter shall be destroyed by the Evidence Custodian in the presence of the court marshal.

FUATA’I TAGO

Chief Justice Michael Kruse rejected a plea agreement between the government and Fuata’i Tago, one of the four defendants charged in connection with the assault of a referee from Samoa last year.

Tago is facing first degree assault for the alleged assault of Ponifasio Vasa. However the plea deal that was presented by the government had it that Tago was to enter his guilty plea to third degree assault which was amended from the first degree assault on an individual by the name of Falelua Hall during the rugby melee.

The Chief Justice asked Assistant Attorney General Cecilia Reyna why has the victim Ponifasio’s name changed to Hall.

Reyna told the court that defense counsel had presented evidence to the government which implicates that Tago allegedly assaulted Hall, not the referee.

Kruse noted that the defendant was arraigned in the High Court for a charge in which he assaulted Ponifasio— not Hall.

The Assistant Attorney General asked if the court would entertain a verbal dismissal on this matter and have this case re-filed in the District Court. Kruse replied that it’s up to the government.

Kruse denied the plea deal and called another case on calendar; but after the Chief Justice handed down sentencing for the case, he called up Tago’s case again and asked how long the defendant has been incarcerated.

Marcellus Tala Uiagalelei, who represented Tago, told the court that his client has been in jail for almost a year.

Kruse released Tago from jail, while the court awaits the government’s move on this matter.

Samoa News asked Reyna outside the court what the government is going to do in this matter and she said she’s not sure.

The co-defendants in this case, Iopu Siolo and Pelenato Puautolu have already entered guilty pleas, while the case for co-defendant Pene Wells was postponed.

Siolo and Puautolu are each charged with one count of first degree assault and misdemeanor public peace disturbance charge.

In the plea agreement with the government, Siolo and Puautolu both pleaded guilty to second degree assault which was amended from first degree assault, while the government moved to dismiss the remaining charge.

Kruse scheduled sentencing for Siolo and Pelenato on June 22, 2012. Wells’s case is set to be called next Monday.

LOMITUSI UIAGALELEI

The government is yet to file additional charges against Lomitusi Uiagalelei in connection with an assault case in Auasi which landed the victim at the Intensive Care unit of LBJ hospital.

Uiagalelei, who was arrested on the night in question, appeared in the District Court yesterday on a status hearing. The defendant is currently charged with public peace disturbance.

Assistant Attorney General Camille Philippe said the government is waiting for additional information from police regarding the alleged assault to determine whether the government is moving forward with additional felony charges against Uiagalelei.

Philippe asked the court for additional time while the government is still investigating this matter. District Court Judge John Ward granted the government’s motion and rescheduled the matter for next week Tuesday.

According to the government’s case the defendant was upset that the victim’s dog was barking during evening prayers and allegedly struck the victim’s dog with a shovel. When the victim’s wife approached the defendant, they argued verbally.

Court filings state that the victim got upset and approached the defendant. It’s alleged that the defendant then struck the victim with a shovel on the head and a fight broke out until bystanders intervened and broke up the fight.

Uiagalelei remains at the Tafuna Correctional facility on bail of $10,000. He is represented by Assistant Public Defender Donna Clement.



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