One of the four inmates who escaped from the Tafuna Correctional Facility early in 2010 and allegedly assaulted an ANZ bank security guard started his jury selection yesterday. Pati Lepou who faces several felony charges entered the courtroom yesterday morning with his attorney Mark Ude.
Lepou is charged with first-degree robbery, first-degree assault and escape from confinement.
Assistant Attorney General Cecilia Reyna who is the prosecutor for this case believes that they will proceed with opening arguments today.
According to court affidavit, Lepou, Gasona Mafiti, Sefo Lemalu and David Maea had escaped from jail in January 2010, but the police were unable to locate any witnesses for this case until the beginning of last year, when two people came forward and told their story.
A lady who used to date an inmate told police that her ex-boyfriend had some information about the beating of the ANZ security guard. She also told police that her ex-boyfriend named the four inmates who were responsible for the beating.
Another witness, a former prisoner, told police that he heard other inmates while he was in jail talking about who beat the security guard at the ANZ bank.
It’s alleged that the four inmates took the key for their cell from a guard’s keychain, and used it to open their cell to escape. Lemalu told police that the only reason they escaped was to find a car so that they could go to Lepou’s house in Iliili, but as they walked down the road, they saw the security guard sleeping on a chair. It is alleged that Lepou was the one who walked to where the security guard was sleeping and struck him.
Lemalu told police that when the security guard fell off the chair, Lepou started kicking and hitting him and asking for his car keys, but the guard refused to give him the keys, and then Lepou and the other co-defendant Maea continued to hit him and kick him, while he was bleeding from his face. The government alleges that Lepou told Maea to stab the security guard.
The beating stopped when Lepou and Maea saw a truck approaching them, and that was when they fled the scene and went back to the jail, according to court findings.
The other co-defendant Mafiti told police that Lepou and Maea were the ones who beat up the security guard while he was bleeding from his head.
Two other co-defendants have already entered into a plea agreement with the government, while the last co-defendant’s case, Lemalu, is still pending.
Maea enter a plea bargain with the government which has been accepted, but Mafiti’s plea with the government is under advisement.
Maea pled guilty to assault, first degree, while the remaining charges were dismissed; he also pled guilty to escaping from jail, and the remaining charges were dismissed.
He admitted to the court that on January 22, 2010, he attempted to cause serious injuries to Itutasioatua Tuiloma, the security guard, when he attempted to stab him with a butter knife.
One of two men arrested by police on March 27 has now had their case set for jury trial, after he denied an offer given to him by the government. Ronald Wells, who is charged with unlawful possession of methamphetamine will re-appear in High Court on September 22 for his jury trial.
His plea agreement with the government was scheduled to be announced yesterday before Chief Justice Michael Kruse, but his attorney, assistant Public Defender Mike White told the court that his client wants to settle this matter with a jury trial, which was accepted by the court.
According to court affidavit, Wells was with Punefuolemotu Tuaolo when police executed a search warrant for Tuaolo’s house and car, and it is alleged that Wells had in his possession a medium size plastic baggie, which he tried to throw away when police saw him.
Attorney for the government Cabel Poag told Samoa News that he gave an offer to Wells last week, to plead guilty to a lesser felony charge of unlawful possession of methamphetamine but he didn’t accept it. Wells is still in custody awaiting his next court appearance.