Court Report

UILITONI FOKETI

A man, who was convicted in 2010 for unlawful drug possession, has been ordered by the High Court to depart American Samoa and return to his home country during the 15 years of his probation.

Uilitoni Foketi appeared in High Court last Friday for a probation violation hearing where the Probation Office head testified that among the conditions of probation for Foketi is to find a job. When he was sentenced in August 2010, he was to serve 60 months behind bars but after serving 34 months in prison, the defendant sought to be released so he could find a permanent job to care for his family.

In May 2014, the court rendered its decision to release him from jail under the condition that he finds a permanent job. He found employment at a local bakery and was able to get a paycheck, according to information revealed in court. However, he was taken into custody under order from the Immigration Office after his immigration ID expired.

Information in court states that twice Foketi submitted requests to the Immigration Board to renew his immigration papers so he could remain in American Samoa, but both times the board rejected it.

And, now that Foketi is no longer permanently employed, the Probation Office filed a motion in the High Court to revoke his probation.

Foketi’s attorney, assistant public defender Karen Shelly asked the court to give the defendant two weeks so that Foketi could work on renewing his immigration papers, but the court rejected the request.

Kruse said the court has no authority to keep a foreigner in American Samoa when that person’s immigration papers are not in order; only the Immigration Office has this authority.

The CJ asked APD Shelly to be specific about what she is asking the court to do, to which Shelly replied she is asking for an order from the court to allow Foketi to remain in the territory as he works towards renewing his immigration papers. It was also revealed during the hearing that Foketi’s two children, who were born in American Samoa, are still in the territory, while the wife is currently living in Alaska.

In the end, the court amended Foketi’s probation and he was ordered to depart the territory and remain outside of American Samoa for the 15-year probation period that was handed down in 2010.

Kruse reiterated that the court has no authority to keep a foreigner in the territory if that person’s immigration papers are not valid. He asked the government for their recommendation and assistant attorney general Jerard Murphy said he would leave it up to the court.

Foketi remains in custody waiting the day for him to depart the territory to his home country of Tonga.

TONY LEATUALEVAO

The High Court has set Jan. 8, 2017 for a pre trial hearing for a teacher from Peter Coleman Elementary School who was accused of assaulting one of his students.

Tony Leatualevao was charged in District Court with first-degree assault, child abuse and endangering the welfare of a child. However, after a hearing more than a week ago before District Court Judge Fiti A. Sunia the assault charge was dismissed leaving the other two charges.

The charges against the defendant stem from a Nov. 2 incident where Leatualevao ordered the 11-year old victim, the student, to stand in front of the class and then the teacher struck his buttocks with a wooden paddle, the court filings say.

The student further stated that Leatualevao struck him five times on his buttocks. The student explained that the pain was almost unbearable and that he could barely sit down during class time.

The mother filed a complaint against the teacher on Nov. 3. Leatualevao is out on bail.

PULUMU FIFITA

A man convicted of first-degree burglary has been sentenced by the High Court to serve 10 months imprisonment as a condition of his 5-year probation. Upon release from jail he is ordered to find a job.

During sentencing last Friday, the defendant apologized for his crime and he asked for a second chance saying that he is remorseful.

Attorneys for both the government and defense sought a probative sentence for the defendant to attend alcoholic counseling as part of his sentence.

The defendant has been in jail since he was arrested on Jan. 5, 2017, and he has spent 10 months in custody. The court has given the defendant the first 90 days after his release from jail to find a job.

The defendant was warned that if he violates any conditions of his probation and if he does not stay away from alcohol, he would be returned to prison.

(Original Samoan stories published in yesterday’s edition and today)

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