Chief Justice Michael Kruse has ordered Taumaloto Aiava to immediately depart the territory and remain outside of its border for the duration of his probation term — which is five years, after the court found that Aiava failed to comply with conditions of his probation that was given by the court in 2014.
Aiava, who has been in custody since he was arrested in Dec. 2017 pursuant to a bench warrant from the court, appeared in High Court on Wednesday this week for his Deposition Hearing, for failure to pay his fine as a condition of his probated sentence. Public Defender Douglas Fiaui represented the defendant, while Assistant Attorney General Christy Dunn appeared on behalf of government.
Aiava apologized to the court for his action and begged for another chance to be with his family especially his son. Being in prison was a bad experienced for him, and he asked the court to allow him to seek employment and pay his fine.
Fiaui told the court that Aiava was in compliance of all other conditions of his probation, except for paying his fine. He told the court that all the money his client has was spent to feed his son; and asked the court to give his client another chance to seek employment to pay his fine, as well as for his client’s probation not be revoked.
Dunn echoed the defense’s submission and asked the court to stay any detention terms for Aiava, but allow him to do community service for the government to make up for his fine. She told the court that after reading the report, it appears that the defendant did not have enough money to pay his fine.
Before discussing the decision with the Associate Judges, Kruse reminded both counsels of two essential things that none of them mentioned during their submissions.
First, as a condition of the defendant’s probation, he was ordered to depart the territory, but that condition was stayed. Second, the court had a hard time finding the defendant when his bench warrant was issued.
Fiaui quickly responded to the court, saying that he understands the court’s concerns but asked for another chance for his client. He said that he client had been employed, but unfortunately lost his job.
“Wasn’t that another condition of his probation, he must be employed?” asked Kruse. Fiaui replied, “Yes your honor.”
In delivering the court’s decision, Kruse stated that after the court reviewed all the mitigating factors about the case, they found that the court had given him numerous opportunities to comply with the terms of probation, even staying detention.
“ ... And what we’re finding is a history of missed opportunities that the defendant has inexplicably failed to take advantage of. We also notice from the report that the defendant has paid very little respect … to the court,” said Kruse.
The court then ordered, that “the balance of detention shall continue to be stayed, however, condition number 3 of the judgment and sentence shall be implemented forthwith, and that is the defendant shall depart the territory and remain outside of the territory throughout the duration of his probation. The defendant shall be released to the trustee of Probation for transportation to one of the exiting ports.”
An Asian man who was arrested and accused of possessing a handgun and drugs found during a traffic stop back in Aug. 2016 entered a guilty plea this week to the charges against him.
The government charged Tao Liu with two separate cases: C.R #41-16 and C.R #39-17
For C.R #41-16, Liu is charged with eleven counts, including attempted assault, unlawful possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute, unlawful possession of the controlled substance of marijuana and unlawful possession of the controlled substance of methamphetamine, possession of an unlicensed firearm, resisting arrest, careless driving and public peace disturbance.
For C.R #39-17, Liu is charged with escape from confinement, a class D felony, punishable by a term of imprisonment of not more than five years, and or a fine of not more than $5,000, or both.
However under a plea bargain that was accepted by the court this week, Liu pleaded guilty to counts 5, 6 & 7 in case #41-16, which is unlawful possession of controlled substance, to wit; methamphetamine, unlawful controlled substance, to wit; marijuana and possession of an unlicensed firearm; and count one of escape from confinement in case #39-17.
The defendant, through an interpreter who translated his court proceedings from English to Mandarin Chinese admitted that on or about the evening of Aug. 21, 2016 in American Samoa, he unlawful possessed methamphetamine, marijuana and an unlicensed firearm. The defendant further admitted that his action on that day was without legal justification.
After the court accepted Liu’s guilty plea, the government then asked the court to dismiss all remaining charges filed against the defendant.
Liu, who is being held in custody without bail, is scheduled to appear for sentencing, on Apr. 20, 2018. Chief Justice Michael Kruse has ordered the government to bring all the items that were seized from Liu’s case to court.