DISTRICT COURT TO HOLD SPECIAL SESSION ON SATURDAY
Judge John Ward will open District Court on Saturday, April 19, 2014 allowing those who are arrested on Flag Day (Thursday) and Good Friday to make their initial appearance, instead of waiting for Monday.
In a letter sent to Commissioner of Public Safety William Bill Haleck, last week, Ward pointed out to the Commissioner that it will be a four-day weekend, and the court will open on Saturday to minimize the traffic at the District Court and help it run smoothly on Monday.
The High Court is closed today and will re-open next Monday for usual proceedings.
MAPUSAGA FOU MAN CHARGED IN SEX CASE WITH MINOR
Fereti Talosaga was arraigned in the High Court yesterday on charges of Sexual Assault, which carries a jail term of up to seven years and Sexual Abuse first degree, which carries a jail sentence of up to five years. Talosaga is held behind bars on bail of $25,000 and is represented by the Public Defender’s office while prosecuting is Assistant Attorney General, Jessica Bargmann.
The incident was reported to police last year November, however the defendant was just arrested last week. According to the government’s case, the incident came to light when the 15-year-old girl did not return home for a week. It’s alleged that on the seventh day since she was missing, her aunt received a call from the defendant’s wife that the missing girl was in Mapusaga Fou with her husband.
The aunt then contacted police for assistance in search of the girl. Police contacted the defendant who stated that he was in contact with the victim multiple times that week. The victim was discovered in Alofau and after being transported to the Tafuna Substation she informed police that she left school Friday, Nov. 22, 2013 and she was staying at her boyfriend’s house in Mapusaga Fou.
She further told police that Talosaga was her boyfriend and that she had stayed with Talosaga from Nov. 22, 2013 until Dec. 2, 2013 when she left to go to her aunt’s house in Alofau. The girl told police that she had sex with the defendant several times and the defendant was aware she was 15 years old. Police officers observed hickeys or love bites on the girl’s neck.
SEX CASE DISMISSED AS VICTIM HAS DEPARTED THE TERRITORY
The Attorney General’s office has moved to dismiss a sexually related case filed against Peniamina Opetaia who was charged with rape, sexual abuse first degree and endangering the welfare of a child. This case has two defendants — Opetaia and the victim’s uncle, which Samoa News cannot name to protect the identity of the 16-year-old girl, who was impregnated as a result of the sexual acts.
The matter was presided over by Associate Justice Lyle L Richmond and Associate Judge Mamea Sala Jr.
Initially, Assistant Public Defender Mike White told the court there was a plea deal which had been filed with the court. However the defendant changed his mind, and now wants to have this matter proceed to a jury trial. Assistant Public Defender Tiffany Oldfield informed the court that the victim in this case cannot be located and the government is left with no choice but to dismiss this case, as the main witness is not in the territory.
According to the government’s case, this came to light when a relative of the victim filed a complaint with CID on February 27, 2012. The relative who reported the matter to police accused the uncle as the one responsible for the 16-year-old girl’s pregnancy.
It’s alleged that when police questioned the victim, she told police that she had had sexual intercourse with two men, her neighbor Opetaia and her uncle, the matai of the family.
The government claims Opetaia admitted to police that he had met the victim in October 2011 but he did not have sex with her until December 2011, and continued to do so until January 2012.
The uncle’s case is also pending in the High Court, but it’s unclear if the government will dismiss the case against the 62-year-old man.
SENTENCING IN ASSAULT CASE POSTPONED, AS NEW INFORMATION SURFACES
Chief Justice Michael Kruse has postponed the sentencing in the case of Joe Togitogi when information surfaced before the court that the defendant is a victim of police brutality.
Togitogi is implicated in two criminal cases, which accuse him of threatening a homeless man with a knife and escaping from police while incarcerated. In the first case against him he faces a felony count of robbery first degree, two charges of unlawful use of a weapon ( also felonies) and third degree assault, a misdemeanor.
In this case he pled guilty to one count of unlawful use of a weapon and third degree assault, while the remaining charges were dismissed as part of the plea deal. During sentencing, the defendant apologized for his actions, pointing out that he’s remorseful for his actions. The Chief Justice stated the defendant is well known in the District Court as he has appeared five times there, and twice before the High Court.
Kruse further asked Togitogi to explain to the High Court why he would deserve another chance as the court is concerned that if they release him, he will go out and commit another crime making it his eighth time before the court. The defendant’s father, who is wheelchair bound, asked the court to please release his son as Joe is much needed at home.
The father said his wife has been taking care of him for a while and it’s been difficult for her to carry him, especially when taking a shower. When Kruse was about to go into a recess to deliberate on this case, Assistant Public Defender Joel Shiver reminded the court to consider that his client was a victim of police brutality when he had been incarcerated at the TCF.
Samoa News points out that Togitogi had been taken to Manu’a for almost a month while the Department of Public Safety’s Internal Affairs investigated the alleged assault. In the meantime, Police Officer Sianava Nu’usila who works for the Tafuna Correctional Facility was accused, and criminally charged, for police brutality of Togitogi. Nu’usila was summoned to court on charges of third degree assault and public peace disturbance, which are both misdemeanors.
According to the government’s case, on Nov. 27, 2013 an inmate (Togitogi) escaped from jail and was found near a store in Kokoland where he was subdued and handcuffed. It’s alleged that as soon as the inmate was cuffed and Nu’usila arrived at the scene he approached the inmate and allegedly kicked the inmate in the face. This case is pending in District Court.