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reporters@samoanews.com

ORAL ARGUMENTS HEARD IN PAUL SOLOFA APPEAL
 
A three panel judge of the federal appeal’s court in Washington D.C. yesterday heard oral arguments in the appeal by former Education Department official Paul Solofa, who is currently serving time at the federal prison in Honolulu.
 
Solofa appealed earlier this year his 2012 conviction on witness tempering and obstruction of justice. He also appealed the jail term of 35 months. The charges stemmed from the time he was head of the DOE Finance Office several years ago.
 
Court records show that arguments were heard yesterday morning from Solofa’s court appointed attorney Misha Tseytlin and Assistant U.S. Attorney John-Alex Romano, legal counsel for the U.S. Justice Department.
 
Details of the arguments were not yet available on court records as of yesterday, and there were no other details of the outcome of the hearing, but it's understood the court has taken the matter under advisement.
 
Defense had argued in appeal documents that the defendant — during trial — didn’t get effective assistance from his trial attorney who failed to raise an “entrapment defense”, and that the court erred by handing down a much longer jail term than is required by federal sentencing guidelines.
 
The government disagreed with the appellate defense attorney’s argument, saying the court didn’t make any error in sentencing and that the trial defense attorney’s “performance was neither deficient nor prejudicial... because Solofa did not have a viable entrapment defense.”
 
Prosecutors had accused Solofa as the mastermind behind the Department of Education school bus spare parts kick-back scheme, but have remained silent on why Solofa was never charged with bribery, or whether he will ever be charged.
 
DOG CENSUS COMPLETE, AWAITING RESULTS
 
Preliminary results of the first dog census, or population count of dogs in American Samoa, shows that three villages in the bay area are the most populated in terms of dogs and cats, says Mona King, with the non-profit group Alofa Mo Meaola (Love for Animals).
 
Two representatives of Humane Society International (HSI) worked in collaboration with Alofa Mo Meaola, the Department of Agriculture and the Governor’s Animal Control and Care Program (ACCP) Task Force for the census, which began in the spring of this year.
 
King said this week the census has been completed and after visiting some 20 to 30 villages they are now awaiting the results, which should be back soon. “But just by looking at preliminary results, Fagatogo, Utulei and Pago Pago are the villages over populated with dogs and cats,” she said.
 
Meanwhile there is a problem that has surfaced in the territory with dog licenses being allegedly stolen by owners of other dogs. King said the dog license is only $5 — so “let’s not steal the dog license” of another dog.
 
To address the issue of stolen dog licenses, she said they will also tattoo the license number on the dog’s ear and “this will be very helpful when the dog’s license is stolen” and the dog goes on to another location where the animal is found.
 
“So at least we have the tattoo number on the ear to locate the owner” using a data base Alofa Mo Meaola has set up, she said, adding that her organization continues to work closely with the Veterinary Clinic in Tafuna at the Department of Agriculture and the ACCP.
 
Samoa News has heard from at least two dog owners who claimed that they had to get another dog license after the first one was stolen, along with the dog’s collar. “I never knew that people would actually steal the collar along with the license tag,” said one owner, who asked not be identified.
 
3-D VIGIL URGES RESIDENTS TO PREVENT DRUNK-DRUGGED-DRIVING
 
Victims of drunk-drugged-driving in American Samoa and the U.S. were remembered Tuesday morning during the 3D Candlelight Service ceremony held at Suigaula o le Atuvasa at Utulei Beach.
 
Master of ceremonies and Human and Social Service Department director Taeaoafua Dr. Meki Solomona told the gathering that the message across the U.S. from President Barack Obama and in American Samoa from Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga during the month of December, is asking all American citizens and the territory’s residents to “recommit to preventing tragedy before it strikes, by ensuring our family members and friends stay safe, sober, and drug free on the road.”
 
He said everyone has a role to play in keeping roads safe — from parents, schools, and businesses, to faith-based and community organizations. “Today we gather... to remember and the real life impact on drunk-drugged-driving on our people and families,”
 
Taeaoafua said the 3D Candle Light Vigil “is a chance to honor and remember those lives forever changed by impaired driving crashes and reminded the public of the tragic consequences of drunk or drugged driving.”
 
In addition to local government officials, an off-island delegation attending the ceremony were members of the Pacific Behavioral Health Collaborating Council Winter Meeting, hosted by the territory.  The Council represents the six U. S. territories and U.S. affiliated states.



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