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Solofa defense files notice of appeal just days after sentencing

fili@samoanews.com

Defense attorney for Paul Solofa has filed a “notice of appeal” with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, and the notice comes just days after he was sentenced by the federal district court in Washington D.C.

According to the one-page notice filed yesterday, the defendant plans to appeal the judgement against him handed down Jun. 8 by the lower court. No other details were available on federal electronic court records regarding specific legal arguments in appealing the judgement, or sentence.

Solofa was convicted in January this year on one count each of witness tampering and obstruction of justice. The latest court records show that he was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Reggie B. Walton to 35 months in jail for each count, to “run concurrent with each other”— which means a total of 35 months in prison.

No period of supervised release was ordered, but Solofa was imposed a special assessment fee of $100 on each count.

Although his court records show that no restitution was ordered, the judgement order in the case of co-conspirator Gustav Nauer — who was sentenced early this month at the federal court in Honolulu— shows that Nauer was ordered to pay $100,000 in restitution, which is “due immediately, to be paid jointly and severally” by Nauer and co-conspirator Solofa.

Solofa’s defense attorney, Assistant Federal Public Defender Michelle Peterson had asked the court to consider a sentence below the federal sentencing guidelines, citing among other things, the defendant is facing a serious medical condition — “Stage IV renal failure”.

“A sentence below the guidelines would be sufficient to reflect the seriousness of the offense, promote respect for the law, provide just punishment for the offense, and afford adequate deterrence to criminal conduct,” she argued.

But prosecutors disagreed, saying that Solofa, who was at the time the chief financial officer of the local DOE “initiated a brazen fraud and bribery scheme that ultimately cost the Department of Education and the schools of American Samoa nearly $300,000” adding that the defendant told a key witness to lie and to destroy records in order to conceal what they had done when the federal investigation was underway.

Prosecutors agreed with the Probation Office’s calculation under federal sentencing guidelines for a sentence ranging from 41 to 51 months in prison.

Charges against the defendant stem from his efforts to obstruct a federal grand jury and law enforcement investigation into a school bus spare parts bribery scheme between Nauer and local vendor Pacific Products, whose owner Oscar Mayer testified for the government in Solofa’s trial.



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