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Suppression motion for Lt. Steven Caskey DUI charges denied in full

reporters@samoanews.com

District Court Judge John Ward has denied in full a suppression motion by Coast Guard Safety Detachment Unit Lieutenant Steven Caskey, accused in December last year of driving under the influence and careless driving.

Caskey’s motion, filed through his lawyer Sharron Rancourt, moved to suppress evidence pertaining to “incriminating statements made by her client, field sobriety test and the refusal to take the breathalyzer test.”

Rancourt noted in the suppression motion that police officer John Paselio, who was in an unmarked vehicle, had observed Caskey’s vehicle swerve into the opposite lane, where it nearly struck Paselio’s vehicle. Paselio then made a U-turn and pursued the defendant’s vehicle.

According to the 14-page suppression motion, Paselio noticed a strong odor of alcohol coming from Caskey’s breath and his face appeared red.

The suppression motion says that Police officers Fa’apouli and Vaofanua were called to the scene and Detective Vaofanua asked Caskey for his driver’s license and subsequently asked Caskey to step out of the vehicle, escorting him to the sidewalk near ASCO motors, where he conducted the Field Sobriety Tests (FSTs).

Rancourt said there was no indication in the police report that Caskey consented to the tests, or consented to being transported to the police station in Fagatogo.

The suppression motion goes on to say that police officers lacked probable cause to detain Caskey or transport him to the police in Fagatogo for further investigation. Miranda warnings were also not administered prior to taking Caskey to the police station, the motion alleges.

It states that when police and Caskey arrived at the police station, he informed the police officers he did not want to undergo the FSTs, however the police officers proceeded with the FSTs.

Rancourt in her motion quoted reports from the police report indicating that Caskey stated “I don’t want to do this, I don’t want to do this and I’ll just park the vehicle and call a cab. My life was on the line, I have 20 years on the line and if you guys do this it will be the end of my career. Come on you guys, cut me some slack, let this slide.”

The motion says the police reported that Caskey failed the HGN and the Walk-Turn test. In the information concerning the one leg stand test, it did not indicate that Caskey failed the test, however the police report says that Caskey failed all three tests.

According to the motion, prior to Caskey performing the FST, he told the officers that he had a stigmatism in one eye and had problems with his right knee.

The motion says “The results of the FST were illegally obtained and must be suppressed. Any statements that Defendant made while at the Police Station must be suppressed,” and the defendant’s refusal to take the breathalyzer test must be suppressed.

The motion states that the 4th Amendment of the United States Constitution protects motorists against unreasonable seizures, and the 5thAmendment of the United States Constitution protects defendants against self-discrimination.

Similar protections exist in the Revised Constitution of American Samoa (RCAS) Under article 1 section 5:

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated and no warrants shall be issued but upon probable cause supported by oath or affirmation and particularly describing the place to be searched and the persons or things to be affirmation and particularly describing the place to be searched and the persons or things to be seized.

Evidence obtained in violation of this selection shall not be admitted in any court”.

Prosecutor Assistant Attorney General Blake Hanley opposed Caskey’s suppression motion.

Blake in his opposing motion noted that on December 30, 2011, around 3:00 a.m. Detective John Paselio (Vice and Narcotic Division) was driving in an unmarked police unit on the main road near the London Missionary Church of Pago. He observed a vehicle approaching swerve into his lane over the double solid lines almost colliding with his unit.

The detective quickly swerved to the right to avoid a head-on collision, and then, immediately made a U-turn to conduct a traffic stop on the said vehicle says the opposing motion.

According to the government’s opposition motion, Detective Paselio explained to Defendant that he stopped his vehicle for crossing the double solid lines and nearly colliding with his police unit.

Defendant responded that he had dropped his cigarettes on the floor board so he bent down to get them when his hands slipped off the wheel causing his vehicle not only to accelerate but to go over the lines.

The detective detected a strong odor of alcohol coming from Defendant’s breath and noticed that Defendant’s face was red, the government motion said.

When the detective asked Caskey about the odor, Defendant replied that he had about five Coors Light beers at the Runway Bar right after he got off the Hawaiian Airlines flight.

The detective suspected Defendant of driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI) and radioed traffic officers. Officer Savelio Vaofanu arrived and made contact with Defendant.

Officer Vaofanua also detected a strong odor of alcohol from defendant and shortly transported Caskey to Central Station due of the poor lighting and safety concerns at the scene.

The government claims, before the test was started, the defendant apologized and asked for a chance saying that he did not want to do the tests and to let him call a cab.

The FSTs were then conducted at the Central Station and officers determined that Defendant failed all three tests.

Defendant was informed about the breathalyzer test and the implied consent laws. Defendant refused to provide a breath test and said that he did not want to risk it and he was arrested afterwards.

This matter is now scheduled for a jury trial before District Court Judge John Ward next month.



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