Court Report

ausage@samoanews.com

POLICE ARREST CO-DEFENDANT IN THE POLICE CAR SHOOTING 

Police have arrested the second suspect in the alleged incident that happened in Dec. 2017, where a police unit was shot at, while two police officers were outside the vehicle, investigating a possible break-in at the Tony Solaita Baseball Field They were responding to a call from a security guard at the ASTCA compound in Tafuna.

The second suspect that was arrested by police last week was a minor, and he’s being held at the Juvenile Detention Center (JDC) to await his court proceedings.

Responding to Samoa News inquiries last Friday, Police Commissioner Le’i Sonny Thompson confirmed that police had arrested a second suspect and he’s now in custody at the Juvenile Detention Center to await his trial.

“I cannot reveal any further information about this case because police officers have not completed their findings. All I can confirm is that police have arrested the second suspect in the police unit shooting case, and he is a minor,” said Le’i.

Le’i stated that police have been looking for the second suspect since the beginning of this year, after police received a warrant for his arrest, and now he’s finally in custody.

“As I stated in my first interview pertaining to this incident when it just happened last year, this action was a ‘cowardly and unprovoked act’ that is not to be tolerated, and while police are still investigating this matter, I hope that the evidence will prove what actually happened that night, the police commissioner said.

When asked if there any more suspect[s] pertaining to the case, he said that “it depends on how the investigation goes. So far, police have only arrested two suspects and they are now in custody awaiting trial.”

The juvenile suspect made his initial appearance in front of District Court Judge Fiti Sunia last week, and he’s been remanded into custody without bail. (Media is not allowed to sit in any juvenile[s] case proceedings.)

Two weeks after the alleged incident happened last year, police arrested Thomas Siaumau and charged him with six felony counts — including assault and weapon charges — and three misdemeanors.

Siaumau is being held without bail, and is represented by counsel William R. Olson- RDA Law Firm. He is scheduled to appear in High Court on April 6, 2018 for his next pretrial conference.

During his first pretrial conference last week, the government’s attorney, Woodrow Pengelly asked the court for another continuance on the case, so that the police would have more time to finalize their investigation, including interviewing more witnesses.

Pengelly told the court that the evidence in the case may be sent off-island for testing, and it will take some time.

FINAUGA LAVEA’I

A man who unlawfully entered a house at night and attempted to rape a 16-year-old girl last year was sentenced to 28 months in prison, as a condition of his 7-year probation sentence.

Finauga Lavea’i, 23, was initially charged with burglary in the second-degree and sexual abuse in the first degree — both class C felonies.

However, under a plea agreement with the government, which was accepted by the court last month, the defendant pled guilty to burglary in the second degree and the amended count of attempted sexual abuse in the third degree, a class A misdemeanor.

With his guilty plea, Lavea’i admits that last year, he unlawfully entered a home during nighttime hours for the purpose of committing a crime. While he was inside the home, he went straight to the room where the 16-year-old victim was sleeping for the purpose of having sex with her.

The victim screamed when she felt somebody touching her body, and this alerted her family and caused the defendant to flee the scene, as he was being chased by the victim's family members.

During sentencing, Lavea’i apologized to the court for his actions and begged for a second chance to return home to care for his parents and his family.

“I feel I made a mistake and I am truly remorseful for what I did," he said, adding that he wants another chance so he can change his life and be a better person.

He promised never to take part in such actions again, and said he will use the remainder of his life to do good things for his family, his church and his village.

Deputy Public Defender Michael White, Lavea’i’s attorney, said that after spending more than eleven months behind bars, his client has learned a lesson, he realizes that prison is not a good place for him, and he needs to move on with his life. 

White told the court that Lavea’i has an alcohol problem, and he needs to attend and complete a specialized program so he can turn his life around.

Assistant Attorney General Robert Morris supported White’s argument, saying the government believes Lavea’i is a suitable candidate for a probated sentence, and the court will manage his probation, which will give him time to change his life and address his alcohol problem.

He however reminded the court that Lavea’i tried to have sex with a 16-year-old girl while she was asleep. He pointed out that there were other children present in the room when the defendant entered.

Acting Associate Justice Elvis P. Patea told the defendant that if he wants to change his life he needs to stop consuming alcohol and/ or illegal substances.

The court sentenced Lavea’i to an imprisonment term of 7 years for the crime of burglary in the second degree, and 1 year for third degree attempted sexual abuse.

His sentences will run concurrently, meaning at the same time. However, execution of the sentences were suspended and he is placed on probation for 7 years, under the condition that he serves 28 months in jail without release, except for medical reason or by order of the court.

He is also ordered to remain a law-abiding citizen, report to the probation office once a month upon release, and not possess or consume alcohol at any time. He is to submit to random alcohol and drug testing and he is not to make any contact with the victim or her family.

In addition, under the law, he must register as a sex offender.

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