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Former Governor Togiola explains pardons

In the last days of his administration, former Governor Togiola Tulafono granted eight pardons to local residents who had been convicted of various crimes.

The pardons were exended to Faau Seumanutafa, Duane Va'a, Pona Aga, Leilua Jason Tuitele, Tiuta Faumuina, Hipa Neria Jr., Aigasalemalama Petaia, and Lolomi Aumua.

The governor’s unequivocal authority to issue pardons is clearly stated in the Revised Constitution of American Samoa, which states: “The Governor shall have the power to remit fines and forfeitures, commute sentences, and grant reprieves and pardons after conviction for offenses against the laws of American Samoa.”

In response to a written question, Togiola provided the following written explanation as to why he issued the pardons:

“I do have very good reasons for granting each and everyone of (the pardons). Their applications and background informations supplied (were considered, along with) some positive recommendation of the Parole Board. There was only one case where I personally had to make the decision (to grant a pardon that was not recommended by the Parole Board). The Parole Board did not have a favorable recommendation on (that) request, but I was not satisfied with the explanation the Board gave.

Somehow, it sounded like there was no inquiry and (the negative recommendation) was made by less than the Board majority.  So I ended up making the decision based on the application and other recommendations, as well as my personal knowledge of the applicant.[Togiola clarified that the applicant was Faau Seumanutafa.] I decided in favor of pardon.  After all, the Parole Board review is not legally mandated… I made the referral(s) to (the Parole Board to) review just to make sure I have others in the community looking at the case too. The ultimate decision was still mine as Governor, and (I was) ultimately responsible for each decision.”

Faau Seumanutafa was convicted of bribery and fraud in connection with wrongdoings he committed as the Chief Procurement Officer under the administration of former governors Tauese Sunia and Togiola.

Pona Aga, a former teacher, was convicted in 2008 for stealing and cashing a co-worker’s paycheck.

Hipa Neria Jr., was convicted for possession of an illegal drug.

Leilua Tuitele was convicted in 2012 of driving with a suspended driver’s license.

Tiuta Faumuina had a felony driving conviction in 2010.

Aigasalemalama Petaia and Lolomi Aumua were both convicted forfood stamp forgery and theft in 2001.

Duane Va’a, a former DOE inventory clerk, was convicted for his role in removing computers from the DOE warehouse and selling them to a businessman.

As a result of the pardon, the criminal records of the eight individuals have been expunged and the men and women have had their full civil rights restored, such as the right to vote or work for ASG.