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Court Report

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CRIMINAL CHARGES AGAINST SATELE DISMISSED

District Court Judge John Ward has dismissed with prejudice the government’s case against Western District Governor Satele Galu Satele Sr. in connection with allegations of property damage of a grave.

Assistant Attorney General Blake Hanley said the main reason why the government is moving to dismiss the charges is due to the unavailability of the main witnesses in this case (because they are off island) and also given that the victim wants to withdraw the matter.

Hanley said the government has issues in proving this matter and the government is left with no option but to move to dismiss the criminal charges.

Satele was charged with third degree property damage, a class B misdemeanor which carries a jail term of up to six months and/or a fine of up to $500.  

The government accused Satele Sr. of ordering the alleged dismantling of a gravesite in Vailoa. Satele Sr. was represented by Marcellus Tala Uiagalelei.  

VATIA TUGAGA GOES TO TRIAL  

Vatia Tugaga, one of the defendants in the beating of a Caucasian man in his 70s on his yacht while he was sleeping, has denied the charges against him and is going to trial.

Tugaga is charged with first-degree assault, burglary first degree, felonious restraint and resisting arrest. Tugaga has been in custody on bail of $100,000 since November last year.

The government made a plea offer to Tugaga which he did not accept. Jason Muasau the co-defendant has already entered into a plea agreement with the government, however the High Court has yet to schedule a date for sentencing.

According to the government’s case Musau and Tugaga used a log to float over to the victim’s yacht. The government claims the victim was first choked with an electric cord and secondly with a strap.

Court filings say the defendants were on the yacht when police officers in a marine patrol vessel were heading to the scene after receiving a call from a neighbor. The defendants jumped off the yacht and swam away, however they were caught by police.

The victim suffered a broken tooth, numerous bruises, and lacerations to his body, which required 30 stitches

Muasau was initially charged with first-degree assault, burglary first degree, felonious restraint and resisting arrest, however he pled guilty to first-degree assault and burglary first degree while the government moved to dismiss the felonious restraint and resisting arrest counts.

During the plea hearing for Muasau, he told the court that the incident occurred on October 27, 2011, when he drank alcohol with Tugaga and they saw a yacht. Muasau told the court that Tugaga insisted they rob the yacht.

“I told Tugaga that if it’s an old man or old woman on the yacht I won’t participate”, Muasau told the court. He went on to say when they got on the yacht, the victim was sleeping and Tugaga jumped on the victim and strangled him and tried holding him down while the victim was calling out for help.

The court heard Muasau went to look for something to tie down the victim; however, police arrived and arrested them.

(A Samoan version of this story is in today’s Tala o Faamasinoga)

SENTENCING FOR FORMER TEACHER CONVICTED OF SEX CASE CONTINUED

Sentencing for former teacher Tone Pulou, 26, who admitted in court he had sexual intercourse with a 13-year old student with whom he had a relationship, has been continued to next week Thursday.

The request for the matter to be postponed came from Assistant Public Defender Michael White who represents the defendant. White asked the court for a continuance while they wait for reference witnesses on the defendant’s behalf.

The intimate relations between Pulou and his student led to the girls’ pregnancy and she has since given birth. Pulou’s admission came after he entered into a plea agreement with the government.

The former teacher pleaded guilty to rape while the government moved to dismiss sexual abuse in the first degree, and endangering the welfare of a child.

According to the plea agreement, with the defendant’s guilty plea he admits that he had sexual intercourse with his student on a date between September 2009 and February 2010. The plea deal says the defendant’s conduct was without legal justification or excuse.

The rape charge carries a jail term of five to 20 years in jail.

Pulou appeared before the High Court Thursday morning before Associate Justice Lyle L Richmond, who accepted the plea deal and dismissed the remaining counts against the defendant. Richmond scheduled sentencing for the defendant on May 10, 2012.

Richmond reminded the former teacher that during sentencing both sides are free to make their own recommendations, which are not binding on the court, and the court has the sole responsibility for determining the appropriate sentence within the limit of the law.

The Associate Justice told the defendant that the court may impose a different sentence than that which is recommend by both parties, and Pulou will not will be allowed to withdraw his guilty plea if that happens. The defendant assured the court he’s well aware of this.

According to the government’s case, the female student told police that she had sexual intercourse with her teacher starting around September 2009 and ending February 2010.

The matter came to light when the female student and her mother went to see the OBGYN at LBJ Medical Center, to find out she was pregnant, and then Child Protective Services with the Department of Human Social Services was contacted, due to her age.

Pulou fled the territory to Australia last year when the government moved to file criminal charges. In October 2011 when Pulou visited relatives in Hawai’i, he was arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation based on a warrant issued by the local District Court.



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