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Court Report

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TWO OF FOUR INMATES WHO ESCAPED, ASSAULTED GUARD SENTENCED

 Two of the four inmates who escaped from the Tafuna Correctional Facility in January 2010 and assaulted an ANZ bank security guard received straight sentences last week Friday. The sentencing of inmates Gasona Mafiti and David Maea were handed down by Chief Justice Michael Kruse.

Maea apologized to the victim and the court and said during the time of the incident he was young and immature, however now he’s more mature. Maea acknowledged to the court he was wrong for his role in the assaulting of the security guard.

Maea’s lawyer Public Defender Ruth Risch Fuatagavi said it’s troubling that the defendant has appeared before the court twice already, and yet he’s a very smart man.

The Public Defender said there should be some redemption in this matter and she believes Maea can become an active member of society.

He was in custody and was under the influence of peer pressure and the type of access he should stay away from, she said.

 “Since the time of the incident he has changed,” she added.

Fuatagavi said it’s clear from the probation report that there was some fear,  and Maea was afraid of repercussion if he did not participate.

The Public Defender pleaded with the court for leniency for her client, given Maea’s age and the difficult life he’s had.

Maea who is 23-years-old was initially charged with first-degree robbery, first-degree assault and escape from confinement. In a plea deal with the government, he pleaded guilty to first-degree assault while the government moved to dismiss the remaining charges.  

During Maea’s plea agreement hearing he admitted that he attempted to cause serious physical injury to security guard Itutasioatua Tuiloma by attempting to stab him with a butter knife.

Inmate Mafiti also apologized to the court, the government, the victim, the Warden and correction officers for his actions.

Mafiti was initially charged with first-degree robbery and escape from confinement, however under a plea agreement with the government, he pled guilty to escape from confinement while the more serious charge of first-degree robbery was dismissed.

Assistant Public Defender Mike White who represents Mafiti said Mafiti was under peer pressure as well and also asked the court for leniency.

Assistant Attorney General Cecilia Reyna told the court that given inmate Maea’s testimony in the jury trial of co-defendant Pati Lepou the government will not recommend the maximum jail term. However Maea deserves to be in jail because while he was serving jail time for a burglary conviction he committed, he broke out of jail and committed a serious crime. Reyna asked the court to sentence Maea to ten years in jail.

For Mafiti, Assistant AG Reyna recommended a five-year jail term. She added that without Mafiti’s testimony the government’s case would have been difficult during jury trial of co-defendant Pati Lepou.  

Chief Justice Michael Kruse gave a straight sentence for Maea to serve seven years and this is to run consecutive with his first sentencing for a burglary conviction.

For Mafiti, the Chief Justice also handed down a straight sentence of five years in jail and this is also to run consecutive with the current jail term he’s serving from a previous conviction.

Kruse told the defendants after serving 1/3 of their sentences, they can take up their chances with the parole board. Kruse made it clear the straight sentencing the court handed down was not because the government had asked for a straight sentence. He added the defense can file a reconsideration motion with the court within ten days.

Sentencing for Sefo Lemalu, who was present in the court on Friday was rescheduled to be heard today, as Lemalu’s lawyer Sharron Rancourt was attending another hearing in Associate Justice Richmond’s courtroom. Lemalu also entered into a plea agreement with the government.

In May a five-member jury, comprising four women and one man, found inmate Pati Lepou guilty of three felony charges — first-degree robbery, escape from custody and first-degree assault.

The government called to the stand Lepou’s cellmates from the time of the incident, David Maea, Sefo Lemalu and Gasona Mafiti, who told the court they managed to open their cell with a key which belonged to a correctional officer, saying they climbed over the fence before they came across the ANZ security guard.

The jury deliberated for about an hour and delivered the guilty verdict. Sentencing for Lepou is scheduled on July, 27 2012.

COAST GUARD LT STEVEN CASKEY PLACED ON PROBATION  

 District Court Judge Elvis Patea sentenced Coast Guard Safety Detachment Unit Lieutenant Steven Caskey to six months probation following a traffic matter.

He was arrested in December last year and was charged with driving under the influence and careless driving. Under a plea agreement with the government the defendant pled guilty to reckless driving which was amended from careless driving, while the government moved to dismiss the DUI charge.

The reckless charge is a class B misdemeanor which is punishable by up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $500 or both. During the plea hearing Assistant Attorney General Blake Hanley told the court the government is recommending that the defendant receive six months probation, undergo alcohol counseling, suspend his driver’s license for 45 days, and he’s to apologize to the police officers involved in this case.

Judge Patea during sentencing last Friday said the court has accepted the recommendations of the plea agreement to suspend the defendant’s driver license, but can drive from home to work and back.

Lt Caskey was also fined $500 however the court deferred $400 and the defendant must pay the remaining.

Other conditions of Caskey’s six months probation are that he remain a law abiding citizen and must not consume alcohol. He is also subject to random testing for alcohol or controlled substance.

According to the government’s case on December 30, 2011, around 3:00 a.m. Detective John Paselio (Vice and Narcotic Division) stopped a vehicle in Pago, after observing it swerve into his lane over the solid double lines, almost colliding with his unit.

The detective detected a strong odor of alcohol coming from the defendant’s breath and noticed his face was red; and suspected Defendant of driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI).

The defendant was transported to Central Station due to the poor lighting and safety concerns at the scene. The Field Sobriety Tests were then conducted at the Central Station and officers determined that Defendant failed all three tests.

Defendant was informed about the breathalyzer test and the implied consent laws, according to the government; however defendant refused to provide a breath test and said that he did not want to risk it, after which he was arrested.



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