Court denies petition to review governor’s authority to order arrest and extradition of man to Washington state
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Chief Justice Michael Kruse has denied a petition filed by private attorney Charles Alailima, asking the court to review Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga’s order to arrest and extradite his client, Paul Harman, to Washington state.
Kruse said the court will issue something in writing to reflect their decision to deny the defense’s petition.
Paul Harman, a Tongan national with an arrest warrant issued by the Washington State Court for a rape case involving an underaged girl back in 2005 was arrested by armed special agents of the Department of Homeland Security (DHLS) two weeks ago here in American Samoa.
Harman appeared in High Court yesterday morning for a status hearing. He was represented by Alailima, while Assistant Attorney General Will Ledoux appeared of behalf of Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga, who is the respondent.
Alailima says the court needs to review the situation, to determine if the Governor of American Samoa has the authority to arrest his client, who is a Tongan national.
“The warrant was signed by respondent stating that he had statutory authority under ASCA 46.0906 as Governor of the territory of American Samoa to direct the arrest of petition for rendition to WA state, pursuant to a requisition request from the governor of WA state,” Alailima said.
According to him, count one of the petition asserts that, for the purposes of extradition between the territory of American Samoa and a state of the United States, the US Constitution, US statutes and Presidential executive orders vest the executive authority in the territory of American Samoa in the President of the United States or the Secretary of the Interior, not the respondent in his capacity as the governor of American Samoa."
Kruse intervened and said that according to the same statute, a designee of the President of the United States can act on behalf of the President.
He continued and referred to count two of the petition, which asserts that the governor's warrant of arrest and for extradition is statutorily deficient, as it is not made under seal required under ASCA 46.0909.
On the issue of the warrant, Alailima said that once the government received a copy of the unsealed warrant from WA, they served his client, who was held in custody without bail this week.
Alailima said all actions taken by police officers and government officials in the arrest, detention, and prosecution of petitioner in reliance on this unsealed warrant including the taking of any physical evidence from this person or statements made were unlawfully.
He went on to say that the court in American Samoa can rule on whether the governor of American Samoa can arrest his client pursuant to an arrest warrant from the governor of WA state.
If not, the governor of WA state must go to the Secretary of Interior to get authority to arrest his client, who is now residing in American Samoa.
“Respondent here lacks US constitutional authority to act as an executive of a state of the United States for purposes of receiving or rendering any individual to another state," Alailima argued.
He pointed to several other issues that could be involved in this matter, including his client's nationality.
He said whoever is coming from WA state, and the governor of American Samoa, have no authority to issue his client a visa, something Alailima told the court his client needs in order to travel to the US.
According to the attorney, Hawaiian Airlines will not allow his client to board the airplane without a proper visa, regardless of who is trying to extradite him.
Counsel Ledoux said there seems to be a misunderstanding on the petitioners side, regarding the relation between the federal government and the American Samoa Government.
According to Ledoux, the President has given the Secretary of Interior authority to make decisions on issues like this. The Secretary of Interior then gives the authority to the governor — who is elected by the people of American Samoa.
Kruse chimed in and mentioned something he noticed was missing from the argument.
According to Kruse, any changes can be made by the governor but they must go back to the Secretary of Interior, and then to Congress.
Counsel Ledoux agreed with Kruse and said the governor of American Samoa has already given the authority to enforce federal laws in the territory.
For these reasons, the government asked the court to deny the defense’s petition.
Ledoux informed the court that agents from WA state will arrive in American Samoa on Dec. 17, 2018. He added that the government needs to inform the agents about the outcome of this matter, so they can make travel arrangements.
According to a copy of the arrest warrant from Senior Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Laura Petregal, which was obtained by Samoa News, Harman was arrested on Dec. 16, 2008 and booked at the King County Jail for an investigation on child molestation and child rape. He was released Dec. 19, 2008 after posting $100,000 bond.
On Dec. 23, 2008, Harman was charged with the alleged rape of a child in the first degree and first degree child molestation.
On Jan. 14, 2009, the court set release conditions for the defendant pending trial, and he remained out of custody on $100,000 bond on condition that he appear personally for court hearings and trial, and not leave the state of Washington without specific approval by the court.
On Mar. 31, 2010, the defendant failed to appear for his plea hearing and an arrest warrant was issued, with bail set at $1,000 cash or surety bond.
According to charging and supporting documents, between Dec. 21, 2005 and Dec. 14, 2008, the defendant allegedly molested and raped his minor child who was under 12 years old. These crimes occurred in Renton, WA.
Authorities in King County received notification from authorities in American Samoa of the defendant’s location and as a result, submitted their requisition application.