Court finds sufficient evidence to prosecute “Mama” for drug dealing
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The preliminary examination hearing of the owner of LE AUTE, Tumuatasi Lefatia, also known as Mama, on drug charges ended last Friday morning with District Court Judge Pro-Tem, Gwen Tauiliili-Langkilde finding probable cause to bind her case over to the High Court.
In delivering her decision, the District Court Judge Pro-Tem pointed out that despite strong opposition from the defense team, claiming that the government failed to present to the court evidence to prove that Lefatia unlawful possessed drugs with the intent to distribute, it was clear from the evidence that the amount of drugs allegedly found in the defendant’s home, along with drug paraphernalia supported the government’s claim that Lefatia was involved in distributing drugs.
Lefatia, who is still in custody unable to post a $100,000, cash bond, is scheduled to be arraigned in High Court this morning at 9a.m on four felony counts, including unlawful possession of a controlled substance, methamphetamine; unlawful possession of a controlled substance, methamphetamine with the intent to distribute; unlawful possession of a control substance, marijuana; and unlawful possession of a controlled substance, marijuana with the intent to distribute.
She is represented by private attorney, Marcellus T. Uiagalelei, while prosecuting the case is Assistant Attorney General, Woodrow Pengelly.
During last week’s PX, the government called two witnesses to the stand, lead investigator, Det. Justin Thomsen and Det. John Paselio. (See story Sept. 17,2018 for details of testimony.)
Thomsen testified about the search and what was seized, while Paselio testified about the results of the chemical testing he conducted on the drugs that were found in the house.
In particular, narcotics detective Thomsen testified that based on his training and experience, the quantity of drugs along with drug paraphernalia allegedly found at Lefatia’s residence in Malaeloa prove that she was involved in distributing drugs to other people, not just for personal use.
The government’s second witness, Paselio testified and confirmed that the chemical testing he conducted on one baggie containing crystals turned out positive for methamphetamine, and one hand rolled cigarette turned out positive for marijuana.
During cross-examination, defense attorney Uiagalelei asked Thomsen whether he received any confirmation from the DOC (Department of Commerce) that his client is the owner of the Le Aute, the witness replied, no.
Uiagalelei also asked the witness about the purpose of the police search. Thomsen stated that they were looking for weapons and ammunition.
“Did you find any weapons and ammunition,” Uiagalelei asked the witness. Thomsen responded, “No, we only found drugs and paraphernalia.”
Uiagalelei also asked the witness what led the police to apply for a search warrant for his client’s home. Thomsen stated it was from the case of a male individual by the name of Manu Lefatia, who is accused of shooting another man in Leone. Thomsen further stated that Manu is believed to be one of Tumuatasi’s sons.
“Did you see my client place the black pouch containing drugs on the night stand,” Uiagalelei asked the witness. His response was, “No counsel.”
“Did you see her selling drugs to other people,” Uiagalelei asked the witness. The witness replied. “No I did not.”
“And why are you saying that my client was involved in a drug distributing business?” Uiagalelei wanted to know. Thomsen responded, saying that based on his training and experience in dealing with drugs cases, the quantity of drugs along with several pieces of drug paraphernalia found at Lefati’a home proved that she was involved in distributing illegal drugs to other people.
During final submission, the government’s attorney asked the court to bind over Lefatia’s case to the High Court, as sufficient evidence had been presented.
Uiagalelei on the other hand argued that the government failed to present sufficient evidence to bind his client’s case over to the High Court, pointing out that there was no evidence to connect his client to the drugs and drug paraphernalia allegedly found on the night stand.
Judge Pro-Tem Tauiliili-Langkilde said the hearing is to determine if there is sufficient evidence and if there is probable cause to try the defendant in court, and then ruled that the court is satisfied with evidence presented by the government that a crime was probably committed.