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Court Report



Pouniu Liu and Derek Ropati who escaped from the Tafuna Correctional Facility on several occasions were sentenced last week for their latest escape, to five years in jail. Sentencing was handed down by Chief Justice Michael Kruse. 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.


Ropati was the first to apologize for his actions to the court, the government and especially to Warden Lumana’i Maifea because his escape ridiculed Maifea’s reputation and his last apology was to the police officer who searched for them when they escaped. Liu also said he’ sorry to the court, government and the Warden and police officers.


He also asked the Chief Justice to be lenient with the sentencing and asked if the court would impose a concurrent sentence instead of consecutive sentence. Kruse noted that Ropati escaped from jail three times and Liu escaped twice, these escapes occurred when they were serving time for previous convictions.


Ropati has a pending case in connection with his latest escape from the jail. “The question is why,” asked Kruse. He noted that the court has heard the same stories from the defendants multiple times. He told the Assistant Attorney General Julie Pasquale to talk to the Commissioner regarding this because these ongoing issues should be addressed and this has to stop repeating itself and there should be changes made at the jail.  


To the inmates Kruse noted that this would be the first time an inmate has asked the court to render a concurrent jail sentencing. He noted the inmates are recidivists and if they keep on committing the crime they should be expecting to hear the 'consecutive' word, not the 'concurrent' word.


Both defendants were sentenced to five years each and to be served consecutively with the previous sentencing.


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. 


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 in jail. 


Assistant Public Defenders Mike White and Leslie Cardin represented the defendants in this matter.




Chief Justice Michael Kruse fashioned sentencing in case of 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.


The defendant apologized for his actions noting that he’s remorseful and that he’s separated from his wife and daughter, his parents and family members. Assistant Public Defender Mike White said the defendant had good sense when he didn’t enter the store during the burglary, but sadly had the bad sense to accept the stolen goods. White asked the court to fashion sentencing for the defendant.


Assistant Attorney General Julie Pasquale asked that restitution be ordered in this case. Kruse sentenced the defendant to seven years, however execution of sentencing was suspended and he was placed on probation under certain conditions, among which is after serving six months, the defendant will be released from jail for 30 days to find a job.


Gainfully employment is not family farming Kruse said to the defendant.  Kruse warned the defendant that if he does not find a job within the 30 days he will be remanded back to the custody of police. The defendant has been incarcerated for over five months.


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.