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Court Report

[SN file photo]

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Elijah Leasau was acquitted of unlawful possession of a controlled substance, to wit; marijuana, after a jury delivered a “not guilty” verdict Wednesday afternoon.

Prosecutor Christy Dunn told jurors that according to testimonies from police officers and also footage from the store surveillance camera that recorded what took place on the night of the incident, the government believes the defendant threw something — a highlighter outside from his vehicle. Inside the highlighter was a pipe, and inside that pipe was marijuana.

In defense of his client, Leasau’s attorney Marcellus T. Uiagalelei told jurors the government failed to present a single element to prove that his client unlawfully possessed marijuana. He reminded jurors that the element of the unlawful possession charge is when a person has on his body or under his control, an illegal drug.

The six-member jury took less than 5 minutes to deliberate on a verdict, after hearing all evidence in the case during a 3-day trial.

Chief Justice Michael Kruse thanked the jury for their service and wished them luck. Associate Judges Faamausili Pomele and Tunupopo Faleafaga assisted on the bench.


A 27-year-old man from Fiji who is accused of stealing items from a store in Tafuna has admitted to the charges against him.

Rusiate Tabete was initially charged with 3 counts of stealing, and 3 counts of second degree burglary — all class C felonies, punishable by imprisonment terms of up to 7 years, and a fine of up to $5,000, or both.

But under a plea agreement with the government, Tabete agreed to plead guilty to 3 counts of second-degree burglary, and the remaining charges were dismissed.

With his guilty plea, the defendant admits that on Nov. 11, 2017, Dec. 2 & 7, 2017 he unlawfully entered a store in Tafuna for the purpose of committing a crime inside.

He admits that on the night of the offense, he broke into the store and stole merchandise and cash.

Unable to post a $10,000 surety bond, Tabete is remanded to custody while he awaits sentencing, scheduled for April 5th.


A 33-year-old man accused of receiving stolen items has entered a guilty plea to the charge against him.

Muka Godinet was initially charged with one count of conspiracy to steal, a class C felony punishable by an imprisonment term of up to 7 years, and a fine of up to $5,000, or both; however under a plea agreement with the government, Godinet pled guilty to the amended charge of receiving stolen property, a class A misdemeanor, punishable by an imprisonment term of up to one year and a fine of up to $1,000, or both.

With his guilty plea, Godinet admits that on Jan. 30, 2017, he received from someone, properties with a value of less than $100 that were stolen from Pacific Products Inc.

Godinet is scheduled to appear in court for sentencing on April 5. He is currently out on a $5,000 surety bond.