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Court Report



An inmate who had a cell phone in his possession made his initial appearance in the District Court yesterday for disturbing the peace. Sopa Siagigi is represented by the Public Defender’s office while Assistant Attorney General Lornalei Meredith is prosecuting.


According to the government’s case, the matter came to light when a couple filed a complaint with police that an inmate was calling their daughter from within the jail. It’s alleged when the police officers were questioning the girl, her phone was repeatedly ringing and she told police officers that it was Siagigi.


Court filings say that police officers called the number on the cell phone, and Siagigi answered, the officers then contacted the Warden informing him that Siagigi had a cell phone in his possession.


The government further claims the police searched for the cell phone and it was uncovered when Siagigi took off his underwear and the phone was underneath his private parts. It’s alleged that’s when Siagigi began to swear and yell profanities towards the Warden and the correction officers, resulting in the public peace disturbance charge.




The government has charged Pelenise Ta’ala, alleged to be driving under the influence of alcohol in Saturday's fatal accident, however the government anticipates additional charges in this matter. Ta’ala was driving the blue 4-Runner that got into an accident early Saturday morning, which led to the death of a man in his 20’s.


Court has denied bail in this matter, given that additional charges may be filed and he’s scheduled to come before the court this coming Thursday for a status hearing. As reported earlier, the vehicle in question had been carrying six passengers including the driver. As it was heading up the hill in Pava’ia’i (Aoloau Road), the back part of the vehicle collided with an electric utility pole.


Bystanders told Samoa News the vehicle did not stop after it ran into the pole, rather it proceeded forward; however the car was unable to move far, given that the tires were flat. 911 was contacted for assistance, a Pava’aia’i man said, and when EMS arrived at the scene they attempted to revive the young man, who was unconscious due to the severity of his injuries.




The 18-year-old charged with having sexual intercourse with two minor girls was sentenced to serve 28 months in jail, as part of a seven-year probation term. The mother of one of the two victims in the sex case asked the court to sentence James Fitiao to the maximum penalty allowable under the law, given what he did to the minor girls.


Sentencing in this matter was handed down by Associate Justice Lyle L Richmond and Associate Judge Mamea Sala Jr. The defendant apologized for his actions before the court, his parents, the girls involved and their parents, noting his full remorse.


Fitiao’s mother took the stand pleading with the court for another chance to allow her son to return home. The mother wept as she made her plea with the court, on behalf of her son, who was before the court for the first time. She noted that their family needs all the help they can get given the situation their family is in, and if the court would allow Fitiao to be released, he will get a job to help their family.


Fitiao’s mother told the court he’s the eldest of the family and he’s her right hand.


“As a mother I understand what Fitiao’s mother is going through, however the court must render the appropriate sentencing in this case, given the seriousness of this matter,” said the victim’s mother.


Assistant Attorney General Tony Graf told the court the mother of the second victim, who was unable to come before the court, had also informed the government that she wants the defendant to be sentenced to the maximum allowable under the law. This mother asked the prosecutor to make sure that the defendant not contact her daughter in any way.


Graf informed the court that while Fitiao is in jail, he’s still calling the second victim in this case. The mother said she wants to make it clear that Fitiao must not contact her daughter directly or indirectly. Assistant AG Graf also recommended the court to sentence Fitiao to the maximum allowable under the law.


However Assistant Public Defender Mike White asked the court to place the defendant on probation, given he’s a first time offender and he needs to enroll into a counseling program that can help him. The defendant was initially charged with eight criminal counts, including two counts of rape, two counts of sodomy, two counts of sexual abuse and two counts of deviate sexual assault.


In a plea deal with the government the defendant pled guilty to sexual abuse and deviate sexual assault while the remaining charges were dismissed. The defendant was sentenced to seven years in prison however execution of sentencing was suspended and he has been placed on probation for a period of seven years under certain conditions, including 28 months jail time.


The defendant was also ordered not to contact either of the victims directly or indirectly; he's to be registered as a sex offender, and he must undergo HIV testing.