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Siaumau Sr.'s motion denied; he forfeits $100,000 bond

reporters@samoanews.com

The Trial Division of the High Court has denied Eliota Siaumau Sr’s request to set aside forfeiture and exonerate the $100,000 bond he posted for his release when he was charged in 2009 for felony and misdemeanor charges, for which he was acquitted by members of the jury.

Siaumau Sr’s motion to set aside bond was filed through his lawyer Sharron Rancourt while representing the government was Deputy Attorney General Mitzie Jessop.

The seven page order was signed by Chief Justice Michael Kruse and Associate Judge Mamea Sala Jr.

According to the order denying the motion, on May 8, 2009 the government’s case against Siaumau Sr was bound over to the High Court and the defendant was released out on bail of $100,000.

The order noted conditions of Siaumau Sr’s release on bail: he must remain a law abiding citizen, make all court appearances, maintain contact with counsel, not leave or attempt to leave the territory without prior written court approval, surrender certificate of identity prior to release to counsel, not initiate any contact (direct or indirect) with the complaining witness, or any government witnesses and not possess any firearms or deadly weapons.

According to the order, after Siaumau Sr’s release on bail he was arrested on another felony and misdemeanor charge in December 2010 (where he pled guilty to the misdemeanor count, while the felony was dismissed)  in direct violation of his release condition to remain a law abiding citizen.

Furthermore Siaumau Sr circumvented his release condition to surrender his certificate of identity and also violated the condition not to leave or attempt to leave the territory without prior written court approval.

According to the order, Siaumau Sr left the territory for Honolulu on March 21, 2010 and left the territory on five other occasions. “Due to multiple violations of (Siaumau Sr’s) release terms, the government filed a motion to revoke bail on March 29, 2011.

“On April 14, 2011 a hearing was held on the government’s motion and the government argued that defendant left the Territory for a total of six times,” states the court order.

The order further states that on April 21, 2011 counsel for Siaumau Sr stipulated that he had left the territory and violated probation, and therefore the court granted the government’s motion and revoked bail.

Siaumau Sr moved the court to set aside forfeiture and exonerate bond, noting that the purpose of the bond is to secure a defendant’s presence in court, and Siaumau Sr has made his scheduled appearances. He also argued the government had not suffered any hardship due to violations of his pre-trial release and it is in the interest of justice to exonerate the bond because $100,000 is a large sum of money. 

DISCUSSION

The court noted that whenever a defendant breaches a condition of a bond, the District Court and the High Court shall declare a forfeiture of the bail. The court noted that the language of Territorial Rule of Criminal Procedure (TRCP)  46 (e) (1) is not precatory and does not limit the court’s power to fashion conditions of release and impose forfeiture if those conditions are not satisfied rather, the rule requires forfeiture for any violation of bond terms, which a court may establish, and a bond is a contract that is strictly constructed with certain terms.

However the defendant asserts that rule 46 of forfeiture should be limited to the breach of nonappearance.

“We agree that general purpose of a bail bond is to ensure the defendant’s appearance at trial... however we do not agree that forfeiture is limited only to situations where defendants fail to appear.

“Federal courts and a majority of other jurisdictions have held that forfeiture of bond is appropriate for violation of a condition other than nonappearance,” says the court order.

The order further states the fact that Siaumau Sr made all his scheduled court appearances is of no consequence. “Full compliance with the terms of release is simply expected of all individuals released on bail.”

According to the order, Siaumau Sr contends that it is in the interest of justice to set aside the forfeiture pursuant to a forfeiture rule, however the court cannot conclude on the facts of the case that justice does not require enforcement of the forfeiture.

The court noted evidence indicated that Siamau Sr’s six trips were outside of the territory without court approval, his arrest and (then) new criminal charges and his surreptitious obtainment of a passport is willful and motivated by his lack of deference to the law of the territory and the court.

“We infer from defendant’s blatant violations that he made no efforts to comply with the terms of his release. Thus, his violations were not technical, they were unambiguously willful,” says the court order.

The numerous violations of defendant’s release terms are what led the government to  file the motion to revoke bail and it was granted by the court. “Surely such violations are an inconvenience for ASG and indeed inconvenience for this court.

“Nevertheless, this matter implicates important public interest that offset the balance of prejudice costs to the government. It is in the interest of justice to prevent injury to the public when defendants are released on bail pending resolution of serious charges.

“We believe that the deterrence value served by total forfeiture is especially important in cases where the defendant is charged with multiple serious crimes as in the instance case,” says the order.

“Giving reasonable interpretation to each clause of defendant’s bail contact we conclude hat defendant should have clearly understood that his release was predicated on his compliance with the bail terms and that bond could be forfeited if he violated any of the terms while free on bail.

The court then denied the motion to set aside forfeiture and exonerate bond.

In the meantime Siaumau Sr through his lawyer filed a reconsideration motion on the court’s order denying their initial request, which has been taken under advisement.



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