AMERICAN SAMOA COURT REPORT
LUATUA FILISOUAIGA TA’AFUA
The Trial Division of the High Court of American Samoa has continued to July 23 the hearing on the case of former Executive Director of the American Samoa Government Retirement Fund, after the court granted the government’s motion for another continuance, so that they can finalize their investigation, and also to give enough time to the defense to prepare.
Luatua Filisouaiga Ta’afua’s case was scheduled last week for a motion to continue the trial date. Prosecuting the case was Robert Morris, while Gwen Tauiliili-Langkilde represented the defendant, who was not present when his case was called.
Tauiliili-Langkilde told the court that on November of last year, she filed a motion to compel the government to produce discovery and documents relating to the charges against her client.
And up until last week she had not received all the requested information she’s looking for from the government, nor the Department of Public Safety. She told the court that the defense really needs the information to prepare for trial and without it, they can’t present their case during trial.
Morris on the other hand told the court that he understands the defense’s argument and it’s something he has being working so hard towards. He said that he spoke with police officers who are handling the case and informed them about the documents the defense attorney is asking for.
Morris then asked the court for another continuance, because the government’s key witness is off-island and would not be available during the trial date that has been set.
After hearing arguments from both side, Acting Associate Justice Elvis Patea immediately granted the government’s motion for another continuance, not only to give them time to await their key witness who is off island, but also to give more time for the defense to prepare for trial
The court is hoping that the matters will be resolved soon for this case, which has dragged on for too long.
Luatua, who is out on bond was charged in April of 2016 with 21 counts for allegedly misappropriating more than $100,000 of Retirement Fund money, while he was director of the government pension plan.
The first of the inmates charged for escaping confinement last week has waived his rights to a preliminary examination (PX) in District Court.
Timata Naea waived his PX last Friday and his attorney, Deputy Public Defender Ryan Anderson told the court Naea wants his case bound over to the High Court.
He is scheduled to appear in High Court this morning at 9 a.m. for his arraignment.
He’s being charged with escape from confinement, a felony, punishable for an imprisonment term of not more than 5 years, and or a fine of up to $5,000, or both.
Besides this new case, Naea has a pending case in the High Court, where he’s being charged with one count of stealing and one count of burglary.
A man with two bench warrants issued by the District Court for failure to appear for two separate cases was arrested for alleged possession of methamphetamine last Wednesday, when the vehicle he was driving was stopped by detectives from the DPS Vice and Narcotics Unit in front of a store in Tafuna.
Wilson Tavita is charged with two counts of unlawful possession of a controlled substance, to wit; methamphetamine — a felony — punishable by a term of imprisonment of not less than five or more than ten years, and a fine of not less than $5,000 or more than $20,000, or both.
Tavita made his initial appearance before District Court Judge Fiti Sunia last week. He is being represented by Assistant Public Defender Ryan Nelson while prosecuting the case is Assistant Attorney General, Gillian Sadler.
According to the government's case, it was the morning of Feb. 19, 2018 a police officer saw the defendant’s vehicle pulling into the parking lot of a store in Nuuuli.
The detective recognized Tavita as the driver of the vehicle, parked his police unit close to the rear of the defendant’s vehicle, before stepping outside to make contact with him, where he notified Tavita of the bench warrants.
The defendant was then patted down for weapons and items were removed from his pants’ pockets, which were placed on the police vehicle. During the pat down, another police officer observed a pouch, which held a glass pipe that containing a crystalline substance believed to be methamphetamine.
Other items pulled out from the defendant’s pocket included a pack of cigarettes, a cell phone, and $25.
His vehicle was searched for contraband on the scene, and police discovered drug paraphernalia including cut up straws.
Tavita and another man who was inside the vehicle when it was pulled over, were then transported to the Tafuna Sub-station.
When questioned by police, the defendant said he understood his rights and he refused to make a statement.
While preparing a property report on the evidence found on the defendant, the investigating officer found a cut up straw about an inch long, with both sides sealed, containing a crystalline substance inside the plastic cover of cigarettes. The substance tested positive for methamphetamine.
When confronted by police about the cut-up straw, Tavita said, "I forgot I still had that in my cigarettes.”
The defendant was remanded into custody after his initial appearance last week, unable to post his $10,000 surety bond. He’s scheduled to appeare in District Court later on this week for his PX hearing.