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John Tai set to stand trial for major drug case in Hawaii

fili@samoanews.com

An American Samoa resident arrested here and taken to Honolulu to face federal charges in a major drug case, is now set to stand trial next month in federal court along with co-defendants, including other Samoans.
 
Kaisa Tai along with younger brother Louis Tai were both arrested in the territory in the summer of 2011 and taken to Honolulu by federal agents. Their older brother, John Tai — who is described by federal prosecutors as the head of a “drug trafficking organization” — was arrested in the fall of 2011 in California and brought to Honolulu.
 
In total there are 19 defendants in this case facing several drug charges, including conspiracy to distribute, and possession with intent to distribute, methamphetamine. However, last year, Louis and John Tai both entered into separate plea agreements with prosecutors and their sentences have been postponed to February next year.
 
However, Kaisa Tai and ten other defendants are fighting the charges with a jury trial now set for Nov. 19 before U.S. District Court Judge J. Michael Seabright, according to court documents, following a pre trial conference hearing last Friday. 
 
During the hearing, the government stated that it will “take eight trial weeks to complete the presentation of its case in chief, inclusive of cross examination” according to court documents, adding that attorneys for the defendants advised that each defendant will take one day each.
 
Also during the hearing, the court ordered deadlines for filing various statements and documents prior to trial. Each side was also given a certain deadline to file their lists of witnesses while Nov. 6 is the deadline to file trial briefs.
 
Other Samoans going to trial with Kaisa Tai are Fouina C. Toilolo, Aloali’i Tootoo and Daniel Fola, according to court documents. A third superseding indictment was filed earlier this month in this case, but that indictment is currently under seal per orders of the court.
 
There was no indication in court records — available for public access — if John and Louis will be called as witnesses during trial. However, their plea agreements call for their cooperation with prosecutors in this case, including testifying in any court proceedings.
 
This case is connected to another drug case where a Samoan woman, Sifatutupu Fuamatu along with her husband, Falefia Fuamatu and three other defendants were charged last year.
 
Sifatutupu Fuamatu, who worked as a ramp agent for Delta Air Lines, is accused of using her airline security credential at the Los Angeles airport to bypass security in order to transport drug money between Honolulu and California.
 
She pled guilty about three months ago and will be sentenced later this year.



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