4 years after a bench warrant was issued, man is finally returned to Samoa
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — A man with a 4-year-old bench warrant, issued for failure to comply with conditions of his probation, has been ordered by the court to depart American Samoa and stay outside of its borders for 2 years.
Fa’amanatu Tugaga appeared before District Court Judge Fiti Sunia last week for his Order to Show Cause (OSC) hearing. He was represented by Assistant Public Defender Anna Wells while prosecuting the case was Assistant Attorney General Jason Mitchell.
When Tugaga’s case was called, his attorney informed the court that the defendant will admit that he violated conditions of his probation in 2014.
Tugaga has been in custody since he was arrested in September of this year.
According to him, he violated conditions of his probation when he failed to visit the Probation Office once a month. Furthermore, he departed the territory without authorization from the court.
When asked why he left the territory without permission from the court, Tugaga said he did not understand that he was not supposed to leave American Samoa.
In 2014, Tugaga was convicted of the third degree assault and public peace disturbance (PPD), both misdemeanors, and he was placed on probation for 12 months.
Sunia has revoked Tugaga’s probation and ordered him to serve 58 days at the Territorial Correctional Facility (TCF), which is equivalent to the time he has already been in custody while awaiting the outcome of his case.
Tugaga was then ordered to immediately depart the territory and remain outside of its jurisdiction for 2 years.
Sunia repeated the statement he made during Tugaga's initial appearance in September of this year. That is, "American Samoa is not a flea market where people can come and go whenever they want."
Samoa News understands that a family member paid for Tugaga’s return airfare to Samoa, and he departed the territory last week after sentencing.
On September 16, 2018, Tugaga showed up in District Court to pick up a court clearance. That's when he was served by the court marshal with a copy of a bench warrant issued by Judge Elvis P. Patea in 2014, for failure to comply with conditions of his 12-month probation.
Tugaga was then escorted to the courtroom that same morning for a speedy hearing on an Order to Show Cause (OSC).
According to information that was presented in court during Tugaga’s OSC hearing, he had just arrived from Samoa on Monday (Sept. 14), and he was at the District Court to pick up a court clearance.
During his hearing, Sunia asked Tugaga’s attorney at the time, Assistant Public Defender Ryan Anderson on the whereabouts of his client. Anderson replied that his client had been in Apia taking care of his mother and he returned to the territory a few days before coming to the court to pick up a clearance.
Sunia told Anderson that his client was on probation for 12 months, and one of the conditions is that he not leave or attempt to leave the territory except under an official order of the court.
According to Sunia, Tugaga was placed on probation after being convicted of public peace disturbance. While on probation, the court ordered that he remain drug and alcohol free, and submit to random testing.
In July 2014, Tugaga was instructed by the Probation Office to provide a urine sample; however, the defendant never did, but instead, disappeared and never returned to the Probation Office. District Court Judge Patea at the time issued a bench warrant for Tugaga's arrest.
“So now, four years later, your client is in court, and the court deserves an explanation on where he's been the past four years,” Sunia told Anderson.