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Defense offers character witness letters for Solofa

fili@samoanews.com

Defense attorney for Paul Solofa has submitted to the federal court in Washington D.C. three letters from character witnesses for the defendant, who is scheduled to be sentenced today after being convicted in January this year on one count each of witness tampering and obstruction of justice.

“The defense... requests that the court consider the... letters in imposing sentencing in this case,” said Assistant Federal Public Defender Michelle Peterson in her submission yesterday which included the three letters addressed to presiding U.S. District Court Judge Reggie B. Walton, who was asked for leniency in sentencing the defendant.

LETTERS

One letter came from Solofa’s daughter, Lina P. Solofa, who is attending the University of Hawai’i. She said her father “is a loving, caring” person, who is financially helping her out with her eduction.

“He is a good father that I depend on for my education. I beg the court’s leniency when sentencing him because he is my main support for my education,” the letter says.

The other letter is signed by Hawai’i resident, Melissah Shishido, who met Solofa at “our church in Waipahu, Hawai’i and have been rather blessed by his sincerity to help people.”

Shishido wrote, “He has been instrumental in mentoring other young men to pursue a life that is pleasing to God. He has been setting an example making it easy for them to become model citizens.

“Paul is one of those people where very little instruction is needed to complete a task. His exemplary behavior encourages all those who he comes into contact with.

“After speaking with Paul and his family, I realize that bad choices may sometimes lead to unfortunate circumstances. Paul has shared with me his desire to make necessary changes… He has been a good provider for his family and provides a sense of security for them.”

A similar letter, with almost identical wording, was submitted by another member of the Waipahu church. The letter is signed by Craig Shishido, but the relationship between Craig and Melissah was not clear from the letters. The name of the Waipahu church was not identified in either letter.

Both letters concluded by asking the court to consider giving Solofa “a chance to continue to provide for his family financially, physically and spiritually.”

Solofa has been detained at the federal detention center in Honolulu since his conviction and court documents filed last week indicate that the defendant will participate in the sentencing hearing via teleconference.

Charges against the 50-year old defendant stem from his efforts to obstruct a federal grand jury and law enforcement investigation into a school bus spare parts bribery scheme at the Department of Education bus division with local vendor Pacific Products.

Peterson has requested a lower sentence than the one calculated by the probation office (41 to 51 months imprisonment) citing among other things, that Solofa — who was head of the DOE business office at the time of the crime — is facing a serious medical condition, “Stage IV renal failure”.

Federal prosecutors on the other hand agreed with the probation office, saying that Solofa “committed serious crimes over the course of several years” and “he orchestrated and profited from a large-scale bribery and fraud scheme that went undetected for years and cost the schools in American Samoa hundreds of thousands of dollars.” They also noted his lack of remorse for his crimes.



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