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Court Report



A man released recently from jail after he was sentenced for burglarizing a taxi and taking off with an iPhone is facing multiple criminal charges in connection with a robbery last month.


The government’s new case charges Andrew Peters also known as Luaao Andrew Fagota with robbery second degree, stealing, three counts of third degree assault, two counts of aiding a child to posses or consume alcohol, underage drinking, public peace disturbance and property damage third degree. The defendant made his initial appearance in the District Court last week.


Second degree robbery is a class B felony punishable from five to fifteen years in jail, the stealing, third degree assault charges, aiding a child charges are class A misdemeanors that is punishable up to one year in jail, a fine of up to $1,000 or both while the PPD and Property damage count are both class B misdemeanors, punishable up to six months, a fine of $500 or both.


Police officer Iapani Tiumalu was assigned to investigate this case, says court filings.


According to the government’s case, on Feb. 2, 2013, police received a call about young boys and girls drinking in a shack behind a store in Pago Pago. Police arrived at the scene and several juveniles took off on foot, while police was able to hold off a few of those who were in the drinking session.


Court filings say, police observed a case of beer near the entrance of the shack; they also saw opened beer bottles. Police questioned a 16-year-old girl and 15-year-old boy. It’s alleged on the way to the Tafuna Juvenile Detention Center, police overheard the female saying, “she wished she had not drank beer the defendant (Peters) bought,”


The government claims, the same evening a female contacted police to report that Peters had assaulted her friend in front of a store in Pago Pago.


Court filings say a female and her male friend were minding their own business when the defendant walked up and slapped the male on the face. The female then went into the store to call police for assistance and the defendant followed her into the store. It’s alleged the defendant for no reason slapped a 12-year-old boy, who was in the store to shop.


The defendant then walked over to the Chinese store clerk and punched him in the face, then walked over to the beer area and grabbed two beer bottles, kicked the door open and left the store without paying.


Several witnesses, from whom police obtained written statements, corroborated the female’s testimony. Court filings say, the store video surveillance footage further supported witnesses’ statements as to what occurred inside the store.


Bail for the defendant is set at $50,000. He’s represented by the Public Defender’s office while prosecuting is Assistant Attorney General Camille Philippe.




District Court Judge Elvis Pila Patea questioned the police officer who was escorting the inmates to the court, if inmates were allowed to have cell phones on them when they are incarcerated. The judge posed the question after a cell phone rang and it was coming from an inmate’s pocket.


The inmate, Sinipati Tuufaanatu was arrested by police last week Tuesday for a public peace disturbance charge, and made his initial appearance on Wednesday and his matter was postponed for the next day, for a statute hearing.


It was then, on Thursday, when the defendant was in court and during his appearance, the cell phone rang. The Court Marshal stood up and looked around as to where the ring was coming from.


The second time the phone rang, it was clear that it was from the inmate Tutufaanatu, who was seen touching his pockets. Bringing out the cell phone, he gave it to his lawyer, who then gave it to the Court Marshal. After the defendant’s initial appearance, where Judge Patea set bail for the defendant at $500, the judge asked Police Officer Aifo’i if inmates were allowed to have cell phones, his reply was “no, your Honor.”


There is a policy in both the District Court and High Court that cell phones are to be turned off when entering the court room, and if the cell phone rings in court, while in session, it will be confiscated and only released after a $25 fee is paid.


Samoa News was present when the police officer asked the inmate as to why he lied about the cell that was in his possession. The inmate replied the phone belonged to his uncle, who was sitting behind him, and that it was used to call his wife informing her of his arrest.


Department of Public Safety Commissioner, William Haleck said inmates are not allowed to be in possession of cell phones once they are under the custody of police. “Any inmate that is taken to court for a hearing shall be searched thoroughly, before they leave the Tafuna Correctional Facility for the court,” he said.


The police officer told Samoa News the inmate said the phone belongs to his uncle, and was used to call his wife informing her of his $500 bail.  




The government has filed charges against Joseph Iakopo, of first degree burglary a class B felony, punishable from five to fifteen years in jail and felony stealing a class C felony, which carries a jail term of up to seven years in jail, a fine of up to $5,000, a fine equal to twice the amount gain from commission up to $20,000 or both fines and jail time.


According to the government’s case, police received a call on Jan. 8, 2013 from the victim regarding his store that was allegedly broken into and the defendant and his co-defendant Xavier Rodriguez (whose case is pending in the High Court) were caught on the store’s video footage.


The storeowner showed the police the footage and informed them that the two men took off with phone cards, $800 cash and cigarettes. Upon viewing the footage, police identified one of the men in the video as Rodriguez and they went to the defendant’s home in Mesepa.


Police apprehended Rodriguez, while a search for the other defendant at the time was unsuccessful. Court filings say, when the police spoke to Rodriguez, he admitted to breaking into the store and stealing the items with Iakopo.


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 an 18-year-old that had multiple phone cards and about $40 cash on him. The 18-year-old told police that Iakopo gave the money and phone cards to him.