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Court Report

reporters@samoanews.com

INMATES WHO ESCAPED CONFINEMENT ENTER GUILTY PLEA

Pouniu Liu and Derek Ropati will be sentenced on Feb. 11, 2013 following the defendants’ entering guilty pleas as part of a plea agreement with the government.

The defendants are each charged with escaping from confinement, to which they have both pled guilty. Liu and Ropati admitted that they left the Tafuna Correctional Facility while serving their jail term for felony convictions. The escape count is a class D felony punishable by up to five years in jail, a fine of up to $5,000 or both.

According to the plea agreement, Ropati escaped while serving a jail sentence for a murder case, while Liu was serving jail time for his conviction in a burglary case.

According to the government’s case, on April 13, 2011 the pair escaped from jail. The jail guard found out the defendants were missing when the inmates were heading to prayer service, and the guards were counting the inmates. One inmate informed one of the police guards that Ropati and Liu were seen pulling up barbed wire at the fence behind one of the units. 

According to the government’s case, police received tips that Ropati and Liu were at Ropati’s sister’s house and police responded to the tip and found the inmates there, where they were apprehended.

Court filings state, the police interviewed Ropati who admitted that Liu had told him that he could not take the long sentence he was facing in jail and wanted to escape. Ropati agreed to escape for his own personal reasons and because they had been served contaminated food at the jail. 

 

FETA’I AULEAFE FINALLY “ARRAIGNED” IN HIGH COURT

The government’s case against Feta’i Auleafe was in High Court yesterday morning for arraignment, however Auleafe was scheduled to be arraigned back in October last year.

Auleafe who has been in jail since last year October is held on bail of $50,000, and is facing unlawful possession of a controlled substance. Auleafe yesterday denied the one count against him during his arraignment before Chief Justice Michael Kruse.

Assistant Attorney General Camille Philippe explained to Samoa News that the case fell off calendar somehow and Assistant Attorney General Kimberly Hyde who is the prosecutor for this case filed a motion to put it back on the docket.

The drug charge Auleafe is facing is a felony that is punishable up to the mandatory jail term of not less than five years, a fine of not less than $5,000 and up to $20,000, or both fine and jail term.

Pre-trial conference for Auleafe’s case was set to be held on April 11. According to the government’s case a confidential informant notified police that a group of individuals was hanging out at an abandoned house in Tafuna and females were present in this group.

Police arrived at the scene to find four men and two female juveniles.

One of the two juveniles told police that the defendant picked them up from their house, they went to their 'hang out' place and while they were in the defendant’s vehicle, the defendant started smoking his ice in front of them and then the defendant made the young girls smoke three hits from the glass pipe. The juveniles also told police they smoked ice at the same place last week Thursday.

Police investigation uncovered the fact that the juveniles are both on probation.

According to the government, the investigation also revealed the defendant is engaged in an affair with one of the juveniles. Court filings state that the juveniles have been confirmed to be 16 and 17 years old. The defendant is represented by Assistant Public Defender Leslie Cardin.

ULIMA KERUPI ENTERS GUILTY PLEA IN BURGLARY CASE

Chief Justice Michael Kruse has accepted the plea agreement in the government’s case against Ulima Kerupi in connection with a burglary case in May last year. Kerupi was initially charged with burglary first degree, stealing and receiving stolen property.

However in a plea agreement with the government the defendant entered a guilty plea for receiving stolen property while the government moved to dismiss the remaining charges.

Receiving stolen property is a class C felony punishable up to seven years, a fine of up to $5,000, or a fine equal to twice the amount gained from the said commission of crime up to $20,000. According to the plea agreement that was read in court, the defendant admits that on May 8 and May 9, 2012 he accepted property from his co-defendant Ioane Faimata. The defendant knew that the money given to him was stolen from the Bell Mart Store.

MICHAEL TUI CHARGED IN ASSAULT CASE

A man accused of striking another man with a beer bottle has been charged with second degree assault, a class D felony punishable by imprisonment for up to five years, a fine of $5,000 or both.

Michael Tui was arraigned in the High Court on Tuesday, where he entered a not guilty plea to the charge against him. Tui is represented by Assistant Public Defender Mike White while prosecuting for the government is Assistant Attorney General Kimberly Hyde.

According to the government’s case, police responded to a public peace disturbance on Jan. 4, 2013 that occurred at the Luisa’s Laundromat in Ili’li, which allegedly resulted with the victim receiving a laceration between his eyebrows that required stitches and his eye was swollen shut.

ASSAULT CASE AWAITS MEDICAL RECORD  

Assistant Attorney General Julie Pasquale informed the court their case against Edwin Atonio, charged with second degree assault is in need of a brief continuance, given that the government has yet to receive the medical records in this case in order to determine the plea offer for the defendant. Atonio 19, of Ili’ili is accused of striking another man with a tea cup, causing a severe cut on the victim’s face.

Chief Justice Michael Kruse accepted the request and continued the pre-trial conference in this case to January 28, 2013.  According to the government’s case, the defendant was in a drinking session with the victim, when the victim confronted him about stealing his iPOD. It’s alleged the victim punched the defendant, who responded by hitting the victim with a tea cup. 

It’s alleged the defendant left the scene and went to his house and returned with a machete, however when the defendant saw the victim’s family members he threw the machete into the bushes near the area.

Police arrested the defendant and confiscated the tea cup and the machete involved in this incident. The victim was transported to LBJ hospital where he was admitted for an emergency operation due to the severity of the cut on his face.



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