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Drug defendant alleges illegal search and seizure by police

Drug defendant Faima Fruean is asking the court to suppress evidence in the government’s case against him. Fruean noted that the Vice and Narcotics detectives improperly carried out an illegal search on him and his property — namely, his vehicle — without an appropriate search warrant.

Fruean, who is out on bail of $20,000 is facing charges of unlawful possession of a controlled substance (methamphetamine). According to Fruean’s suppression motion filed through his lawyer Assistant Public Defender Leslie Cardin, on or about March 28, 2012 the defendant, a taxi driver, was providing taxi services to Romeo Peretania.

Peretania was the target of a drug investigation.

According to the suppression motion, Vice and Narcotics Detectives who were en route to execute a search warrant for the residence and person of Peretania saw Fruean dropping Peretania off at his residence.

The motion noted that after Fruean dropped off his passenger Peretania, police officers followed Fruean to his taxi stand and directed him to accompany them to a location in Fatuoaiga for questioning.

“The police had no warrant to arrest Fruean, nor did they have any probable cause to detain or question him, nor was he the target of their investigation.”

“Detained by the police and ordered to accompany them, Fruean was deprived of his liberty and effectively under arrest when the police advised him they wished to search his taxi.

Any alleged consent to search the vehicle was obtained by duress and coercion due to the illegal, warrantless detention of Fruean without probable cause”.

The motion goes on to say that the police had neither a search warrant for Fruean or for his vehicle. According to the motion, the seizure of Defendant Fruean and the subsequent warrantless search of his vehicle, conducted under duress, was without probable cause and in violation of his rights under the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution and the Revised Constitution of American Samoa.

Fruean through his lawyer asked the High Court to grant the Motion to Suppress any evidence, as it was improperly obtained from the illegal seizure of his person and the subsequent warrantless search of his vehicle.

According to the government’s case, Fruean was seen at a residence of someone who was under police surveillance for a period of time, and when the defendant left the residence he was approached by police.

Court filings state that police found a plastic baggie containing methamphetamine inside his wallet. The court document says Fruean told police he picked up drug defendant Romeo Peretania, who had pulled out a black plastic round container and put it in the glove compartment of Fruean’s vehicle.

Fruean said to police he allegedly stole one small baggie containing methamphetamine, leaving five small baggies inside the plastic container.

Chief Justice Michael Kruse scheduled this matter to be heard June 22, 2012.

Samoa News contacted Assistant Attorney General Cable Poag, asking if the government had responded to the defense’s suppression motion, however Poag noted that he has yet to complete his research into this matter.

Peretania, meanwhile, was arrested the same day as Fruean. Peretania is facing one count of unlawful possession of a controlled substance (methamphetamine) with intent to distribute, resisting arrest and public peace disturbance.

Police executed a search warrant on Peretania, in which they confiscated 12 small baggies containing methamphetamine and a glass pipe commonly used to smoke methamphetamine.

The items were found in Peretania’s pocket. Cash in the amount of $226 was also found in his possession. It’s alleged that police physically struggled with Peretania in placing handcuffs on him, and he is also accused of swearing at police officers.