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reporters@samoanews.com

REPEAT DRUG DEFENDANT ENTERS GUILTY PLEA

 Many cases filed by the government are resolved with a plea agreement, but in the government’s case against Fa’afeai Atimalala, a repeat drug defendant, the government opted not to offer him a plea agreement.

Assistant Attorney General Julie Pasquale told Samoa News Atimalala is a repeat drug offender and it’s clear the amount of marijuana found on his premises was substantial and there is no reason to give him an offer.

The 48-year-old defendant yesterday pled guilty to the charges of unlawful possession of a controlled substance and unlawful possession with intent to distribute.

Associate Justice Lyle L Richmond, Associate Judges Mamea Sala Jr and Muasau Tasina Tofili accepted the defendant’s guilty plea.

According to the government’s case, police uncovered 13 live marijuana plants planted around the defendant’s home in Nu’uuli. Police executed a search warrant on the suspect’s residence and came across three marijuana plants growing inside a plastic bowl and ten marijuana plants surrounding the home.

The marijuana plants which police confiscated as evidence have a street value of $5,000. All the plants tested positive for marijuana, and the live plants were up to 3 ft. tall.  Police also confiscated two glass pipes, six marijuana joints and loose, dried marijuana leaves. The defendant was convicted back in 1989 for similar conduct.

Sentencing for Atimalala is now set for February 8, 2013.

ANOTHER INMATE CHARGED WITH ESCAPE WHILE OUT ON WORK RELEASE

Inmate To’oto’o Seumalo who’s currently serving time in the Tafuna Correctional Facility for a drug conviction — he was sentenced to five years in jail — has been charged with escaping while on work release.

Seumalo is charged with a class D felony punishable by up to five years in jail, a fine of up to $5,000 or both. The defendant made his initial appearance in the District Court yesterday. According to the government's case the Vice and Narcotics unit with the Department of Public Safety were assigned to investigate possible ongoing escapes by several inmates at the TCF while out on work release and Seumalo is among those inmates, say court documents.

The government claims that on July 1, 2011 the defendant was approved to take part in the work release program and was approved to work at “Three Dimension Construction Company”. It's alleged the defendant acknowledged that he understood the terms and conditions of the work release, i.e. they are not allowed to deviate in another direction but must go straight to work and back to the TCF.

Court filings say on Sept. 2, 2011 the defendant was tested positive for marijuana through a drug test that was administered and his work release privilege was revoked. It's alleged the defendant admitted to the police that while on work release, he and other inmates went home from their work at the construction site in Pago Pago to visit families on several occasions.

“Defendant said that he and other inmates were given permission to go visit their families by their employer, who told them he would take care (of the Warden). “Defendant could not remember the exact dates, during the time period he was released, but he does admit that he left the work site, took the boys and went home to visit his family,” say court filings.

Other inmates already charged in this matter corroborate the information provided by the defendant. The defendant’s brother-in-law and wife told police that while Seumalo was incarcerated he would visit them at their home.

ASG TO FILE ADDITIONAL FELONY CHARGE IN STEALING CASE

The government is looking at filing additional charges against Xavier Rodriguez and James Fitiao on allegations that they broke into a store in Mesepa, while police are still searching for the third suspect in this case.  

Rodriguez is facing public peace disturbance while Fitiao is charged with under age drinking; however Assistant Attorney General Lornalei Meredith said felony charges may be filed in this case.

According to the government’s case, the victim contacted police for assistance. The victim said he showed police footage of Rodriguez, and another suspect who entered the store and took off with phone cards, $800 and cigarettes.

Upon viewing the footage police identified one of the men in the video as Rodriguez. It's alleged police visited the defendant’s home in Mesepa, who responded in a “volatile manner” when police asked if they could question him regarding an investigation.

Court filings say they also saw the third suspect in this matter, however he took off on foot when police approached him. When taken in for questioning, it's alleged Rodriguez admitted that he broke into the store after viewing the footage from the alleged burglary.

Police went back to the defendant’s residence where they found the cigarettes from the burglary, and inside one of the rooms to the house police found the second suspect Fitiao, who was intoxicated. It is alleged he had in his possession multiple phone cards and about $40 cash. Fitiao told police that the money and phone cards were given to him by the third suspect in this case.



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