Defense contends no incarceration necessary for Mine Pase
Some 20 letters have been submitted to the federal court in Washington D.C. in support of 63-year old Mine S. Pase, who will be sentenced June 19, after her guilty plea last November to one count of conspiracy to steal more than $325,000 in AmeriCorps grant funds, which were provided to the American Samoa Special Services Commission (ASSSC).
In the 26-page sentencing memorandum filed Wednesday at federal court, defense attorney Assistant Public Defender Michelle Peterson, who is based in Washington D.C., included 30 pages of letters written on Pase’s behalf.
“These members of her small community are all very familiar with her and speak of how her actions in this case are not in keeping with her otherwise exemplary character,” said Peterson in her memorandum. “Many tell of how she raises foster children, counsels friends and family members, is always full of compassion and empathy.”
“They speak of her ‘quiet demeanor’, her ‘mild-mannered’ and ‘soft-spoken personality’,” Peterson points out. “These letters demonstrate how she has, with no fanfare, touched the lives of many in her family, her church, and her community.”
Additionally, she has worked for years with the WIND (Women in New Dimension) fellowship to minister to the needy, mentor young women, and visit those in the hospital and in prison.
“We urge the Court to read all of these letters in their entirety as they speak volumes about the person Ms. Pase is,” said Peterson. “In addition to her own family members, Ms. Pase has opened her home to those in need.”
For example, Peterson points to Ms. Talalua Patu, who wrote that she had lived with Pase while in American Samoa since 1979 when her own parents passed away.
“Ms. Pase shares whatever she has with whomever is in need. She delivers food to the homeless living on the streets. And Ms. Patu explains, even now when Ms. Pase is unemployed due to her actions in this case, she continues giving: ‘When she became unemployed, the meals weren’t as colorful and the helpings are not as large as before, but she still shares what we can with those on the streets’.”
In another example, Peterson pointed to Timoci Beterua, who wrote to the court about how Pase found him and his family a place to live, rent free, for seven years when they emigrated from Fiji to American Samoa. Pase also personally provided his family with food and other support.
“I often wonder what this world would be like if there were more people like Mrs. Pase, who sees no barriers among races,” wrote Beterua. “Even in my own country did I not find generosity such as this. Through her example, I feel good and ready to help a person in need.”
Other letters cited by the defense come from local women, like Dr. Minareta M. Thompson, Dr. Oreta M. Togafau, and Evelyn V. Langford — who attribute their successes largely to the influence of Pase, and note her compassionate nature.
Peterson also cited a letter from Rev. Isaako Mata’utia of the CCCAS-Masausi who wrote of how supportive Pase has been to his “remote village”.
“We were very sad to hear about her court case. These actions are so out of character for her but we as a congregation continue to stand by her with our full support,” wrote Mata’utia. “This legal battle has not tainted Mine’s spirit of service to the church and this community. I can bear witness to her remorse in this situation, and how she has used it to benefit others through counseling. I know she deeply regrets her mistakes.”
Peterson informed the court that each of the letters submitted for review “is a touching tribute to Ms. Pase’s life” and “they demonstrate that she is a very worthy individual — one whose actions in this case are not indicative of her true character.”
Peterson contends that no period of incarceration is necessary to protect the public from further crimes of Ms. Pase because “there is no reason to believe there will be further crimes.”
“The effect that this case has had on her life and the lives of her family – absent any period of incarceration – is a sufficient guarantee that she will never commit another offense,” she said and noted that the United States Sentencing Commission has recognized that defendants without any prior contact with the criminal justice system are unlikely to recidivate.
She noted that the Commission’s studies have determined that each of the following factors which Pase possesses reduce the likelihood of recidivism: she is over 60, is a first time offender, is female, is educated, was employed at the time of the offense, has been married, has no history of drug or alcohol abuse, has zero criminal history points, and has been convicted of a white-collar offense.
“In imposing the least sentence sufficient to account for the need to protect the public from further crimes this Court should consider the statistically low risk of recidivism presented by Ms. Pase,” the defense argued.
Peterson said the Probation Office has calculated an advisory guideline range of 24 to 30 months in jail for sentencing.
“While the government reserved its right to suggest that the enhancement for abuse of trust applied, the parties had agreed in the plea agreement to a range of 18 to 24 months,” she said. “However, either of these guideline ranges fails to take any account of the low risk of recidivism and the unique circumstances of this case and are greater than necessary to promote the goals of sentencing in this case.”
She also said that the government is seeking restitution in this case and Ms. Pase wants to provide it to the best of her ability. While her employment opportunities will be more limited as a result of this conviction, there is every reason to believe that she can obtain a reasonably well-paying job once she puts this sentencing behind her, said Peterson.
“This Court should seek to maximize, rather than eliminate, Ms. Pase’s ability to make restitution,” she argued.