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DRUG CASE DISMISSED DUE TO ILLEGAL SEARCH

The Vice and Narcotics search of Faima Fruean two months ago was deemed illegal prompting the government to move the High Court to dismiss the drug charge against the accused. Assistant Attorney General Cable Poag yesterday verbally asked Chief Justice Michael Kruse to dismiss the unlawful possession of a controlled substance charge (methamphetamine) against the defendant.

Last week, lawyer for the defendant Assistant Public Defender Leslie Cardin filed a motion to suppress the evidence, noting the search was illegal.

According to the motion, Fruean is a taxi driver and was providing taxi services to drug defendant Romeo Peretania. Peretania was the target of a drug investigation.

The motion states that Vice and Narcotics Detectives who were en route to execute a search warrant for the residence and person of Peretania saw Fruean dropping Peretania off at his residence. The motion noted that after Fruean dropped off his passenger, Peretania, police officers followed Fruean to his taxi stand and directed him to accompany them to a location in Fatu-o-aiga for questioning.

“The police had no warrant to arrest Fruean, nor did they have any probable cause to detain or question him, nor was he the target of their investigation,” says the motion to suppress.

“Detained by the police and ordered to accompany them, Fruean was deprived of his liberty and effectively under arrest when the police advised him they wished to search his taxi.

Any alleged consent to search the vehicle was obtained by duress and coercion due to the illegal, warrantless detention of Fruean without probable cause”.

The motion noted that the police had neither a search warrant for Fruean or for his vehicle, and the subsequent warrantless search of his vehicle, conducted under duress, was without probable cause and in violation of his rights under the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution and the Revised Constitution of American Samoa.

The police arrested Fruean after he was seen at a residence of someone who was under police surveillance for a period of time, and when the defendant left the residence he was approached by police.

The government alleges that when police searched Fruean, they found one small baggie containing methamphetamine.

However, Peretania was the target of the investigation, and was arrested the same day as Fruean. Peretania is facing one count of unlawful possession of a controlled substance (methamphetamine) with intent to distribute, resisting arrest and public peace disturbance.

Police executed a search warrant on Peretania, in which they confiscated 12 small baggies containing methamphetamine and a glass pipe commonly used to smoke methamphetamine. The items were found in Peretania’s pocket.

Cash in the amount of $226 was also found in his possession. It’s alleged that police physically struggled with Peretania in placing handcuffs on him, and he is also accused of swearing at police officers.

MAPUI LEOTA GUILTY FOLLOWING BENCH TRIAL

District Court Judge John Ward rendered a guilty verdict in the government’s case against Mapu Leota for inappropriately touching his wife’s sister while she was sleeping with her children and husband. Leota is convicted of private peace disturbance, a misdemeanor, following the bench trial yesterday in District Court.

According to the government’s case the victim was sleeping when she felt someone touching her on her private part and when she woke up, it was Leota.

The victim told police that she woke up and saw the defendant bending near her feet with his fingers touching her private part through her shorts.

The victim then immediately pinched her husband’s chest to wake him up as the defendant was quickly walking away. The victim’s husband woke up and contacted police for assistance. The victim told police this was not the first time Leota touched her on her private part while she was sleeping with her children.

The victim’s husband, in a statement to police said he approached the defendant and asked why he touched his wife inappropriately but Leota just swore profanities at him.

The police affidavit states the defendant lives behind the victim’s home and they share the same restroom which is located in the victim’s home.

Police noted when they were booking the defendant for confinement, they could smell alcohol coming from his breath. The police report states the investigating officer is also investigating a similar incident in which the same defendant is accused of touching the same victim while she was sleeping with her children.

Leota is out on bail of $1,000 and is scheduled to be sentenced next week Monday.The defendant is represented by Fiti Sunia while prosecuting is Assistant Attorney General Camille Philippe.

FUALALEMALO SALATIELU DENIES CHARGES

A hearing impaired woman has denied the criminal charge against her in connection with the assault of an 11 year old boy. Fualemalemalo Salatielu entered a not guilty plea when she was arraigned in High Court yesterday morning, before Chief Justice Michael Kruse.

The defendant is facing second degree assault, endangering the welfare of a child and private peace disturbance (PPD).

The assault count is a class D felony which carries a jail term of up to five years, a fine of up to $5,000 or both. Endangering the welfare of a child is a class A misdemeanor punishable in jail for up to one year, a fine of up to $1,000 or both.

The PPD count is also a misdemeanor that is punishable with up to 15 days in jail, a fine of $30 or both.

The defendant underwent a preliminary examination in the District Court on Thursday and Judge John Ward found there was probable cause for the government’s case to be bound over to the High Court.

However, Ward denied Assistant Public Defender Leslie Cardin request for a two week continuance while they attain the defendant’s school records and a move to have this matter be heard in family court.

Ward scheduled the preliminary examination hearing for next Thursday at 1pm.

According to the government’s case the victim’s mother filed a complaint regarding her 11-year old son, alleging he was assaulted by Salatielu.

The government alleges the victim was arguing with his little brother when Salatielu intervened and punched the victim in the face. The victim then fell down, and it’s alleged that while the victim was on the floor, the defendant proceeded to kick the victim multiple times.

According to the government’s case, the victim got up and ran outside, however the defendant followed him and threw a rock at the victim which landed on his nose. The 11-year old boy was taken to the hospital, where he was admitted.

According to the government’s case the victim suffered a nasal bone fracture, with bruising and swelling. A sign language interpreter translated the proceedings of the arraignment to the defendant.



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