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Court Report

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DRUG DEFENDANT ON PROBATION FOR ONE MARIJUANA JOINT

A fisherman who walked into the main port with a marijuana joint behind his ear was placed on probation for five years and released from jail on Thursday.

Assistant Public Defender Leslie Cardin pleaded with the court to place the defendant, Vaoeli Lafoia, on probation given that the amount of marijuana found on him was minimal.

Vaoeli Lafoia took the stand and apologized for his actions.

Assistant Attorney General Cable Poag told the court he agrees with the recommendations made by the probation officer to consider probation for the defendant and recommended no additional jail term.

Chief Justice Michael Kruse, who was accompanied on the bench by Chief Associate Judge Logoai Siaki and Associate Judge Fa’amausili Pomele, sentenced the defendant to five years, however execution of sentencing was suspended and the defendant was placed on probation for five years, with the condition he pays a $2,000 fine.

The Chief Justice told Lafoia he would be allowed to return to work, however he must abide with the conditions of his probation, which is to remain a law abiding resident in the territory and to notify the probation office regarding his fishing trips.

Kruse noted that given the incident involved alcohol and a controlled substance, the defendant must not consume any alcohol or controlled substances. Lafoia was also ordered to undergo drug and alcohol counseling.  Regarding his actions which led to his arrest, Kruse remarked,  “This may not be the smartest thing to do, none the less possession of controlled substance is a serious offense in the territory”.

Lafoia, who faces unlawful possession of the controlled substance marijuana, pleaded guilty to the amended count of unlawful possession of a controlled substance, which is a lesser offense. In this matter other co-defendants are Hepa Pahe and Keiana Talaese.

Pahe had also entered into a plea agreement with the government, while Talaese’s case is pending in the High Court.

Court filings say police responded to a public peace disturbance call on the Marina in Fagatogo which led to the arrests of Lafoia and his co-defendants. According to the government’s case, the police arrested three males in connection with disturbing the peace and were searching for Lafoia.  It’s alleged that when the fight escalated, Lafoia fled from the Marina dock and went to the main dock.  While attempting to enter the wharf a security guard saw that Lafoia had a marijuana joint on his ear and police were contacted.

Court filings say marijuana substance was also found in Lafoia's pocket. 

SENTENCING FOR VICIOUS ATTACKER CONTINUED 

Sentencing for Jason Muasau, one of the two men charged for beating a man in his 70s while asleep on his yacht, has been postponed while his co-defendant Vatia Tugaga is scheduled to appear in court next week.

Muasau pled guilty to first-degree assault and burglary while the government moved to dismiss the felonious restraint and resisting arrest charges.

During the plea hearing, Muasau told the court the incident occurred on October 27, 2011 when he was working. His co-defendant Tugaga asked him to get off work so they could party, which Muasau did.  Muasau told the court that Tugaga argued with his girlfriend and they left and while they were walking towards the other side of the beach in Atu’u, they saw a yacht and Tugaga insisted they rob the yacht.

Muasau said he and Tugaga jumped on a floating log which they used to stay afloat and paddled over to the yacht. “I told Tugaga that if it’s an old man or old woman on the yacht I won’t participate”, said Muasau. He told the court when they got to yacht, the victim was sleeping and his co-defendant jumped on the victim and strangled him and tried holding him down while the victim was calling out for help.

The court heard Muasau looked for a piece of material to tie down the defendant. Muasau said he went outside to look out for police but the police arrived and arrested them.

According to the government’s case the victim was choked first with an electric cord and second with a strap. The victim lost conscious and saw flashing lights when he regained consciousness, he again called out for help. Court filings say while the defendants were still on the yacht, police officers with the marine patrol vessel headed to the scene after receiving a call from a neighboring yachtee. The defendant jumped off the yacht and swam away however was later caught by police.

The victim suffered a broken tooth, numerous bruises and lacerations to his body which required 30 stitches. The High Court has yet to schedule the sentencing date for Muasau.



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