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Court Report

reporters@samoanews.com

AARON WISDOM CASE RESOLVED WITH CHANGE OF PLEA

The Jury trial for drug defendant Aaron Wisdom scheduled for next week has been taken off the High Court’s calendar, as Wisdom is planning to enter a guilty plea. Acting Associate Justice Elvis Patea presided over the hearing Tuesday morning.

Wisdom was charged with unlawful possession of a controlled substance of marijuana, possession of unlicensed firearm and unlawful possession of ammunition.

He was in court Tuesday morning on an expedited hearing on his change of plea, however the Acting Associate Justice noted that the court will re-schedule the plea hearing for this matter on Jan. 7, 2013 given that Chief Justice Michael Kruse is on leave.

He added that the jury trial set for this matter will be taken off the court calendar.

According to the government’s case while Customs Agents were conducting a procedural search of a 20-foot container on Jan. 13, 2012, they discovered what appeared to be a marijuana substance and the Vice and Narcotics Division officers were contacted.

It’s alleged that during the search, customs agents came across what appeared to be more marijuana substances, when the K-9 dog Grace ‘alerted’ the custom agents.

All the substances were tested and found positive for marijuana.

Several boxes of ammunition and three firearms were also confiscated from the container.

According to the court affidavit, police also confiscated numerous drug paraphernalia used to smoke marijuana, as well as items related to the cultivation of marijuana.

Wisdom, who is from San Diego, California, was in the process of moving to American Samoa when the container was searched. He  is out on a surety bond of $20,000.

Details of the plea have yet to be disclosed, however Samoa News understands Wisdom is to enter a guilty plea to misdemeanor charges.

MAN CHARGED FOR STRIKING ANOTHER MAN WITH TIRE IRON

 The government arrested and charged Uati Tanoa’i for striking a fellow church member with a tire iron. Tanoa’i is charged with third degree assault and public peace disturbance however he’ll be in court today to determine if the government is going to file additional charges against him. Tanoa’i made his initial appearance in the District Court on Monday.

According to the government’s case, the defendant and the victim argued over a matter relating to the church that they had both attended. It’s alleged the pair then fought inside the bus, when the defendant grabbed the tire iron and struck the victim on the head.

The victim was taken to LBJ hospital where he was treated for the cut on his head and released. During the defendant’s appearance in court, he was released on his own recognizance and is scheduled to be in court this morning. The defendant is represented by Assistant Public Defender Karen Shelley while prosecuting is Julie Pasquale.

DRUG DEFENDANT RELEASED FROM JAIL

Drug defendant Vili Oney, who was arrested in March following a Vice and Narcotics raid, was sentenced to one year in jail as a condition of his five-year probation and released yesterday from the Tafuna Correctional Facility.

Oney, through his lawyer Sharron Rancourt, filed a motion for early release, given that he has already paid a fine of $3,000. Associate Justice Lyle L Richmond and Associate Judge Mamea Sala Jr yesterday granted the motion for early release, noting that Oney has complied with the one of the conditions of his release, which was to pay the $3,000 fine and upon completing payment, the sentence would be reduced to six months in jail.

Oney was initially charged with one count of unlawful possession of a controlled substance of marijuana, a felony that is punishable from five to ten years in jail and/or a fine of up to $5,000.

However in a plea deal with the government Oney pled guilty to the same charge, but with the lesser penalty, which is up to five years in jail.

During Oney’s sentencing the Associate Justice noted the defendant was a good kid until he graduated from high school and hung out with the wrong crowd.

Richmond noted the defendant had admitted that he sold illegal drugs, which is why this case is very serious. Other conditions of Oney’s probation say that he is not to consume any alcohol, nor enter into bars or taverns, and he cannot congregate with people who are under the influence of alcohol.

He was also ordered to undergo and successfully complete drug and alcohol counseling and he must pay any fees for that course. The defendant is also subject to random testing for alcohol or controlled substance, and police or probation officers may search him, his vehicle and home for alcohol and illegal substances.

In the government’s case, the Vice and Narcotics division executed a search warrant on the defendant’s bedroom, where they found what appeared to be loose marijuana substance, and marijuana residue was found in an empty shoe box.



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