Court Report

Translated by Samoa News staff

MATTHEW BARJA

A 19-year-old man who was accused along with two juveniles of breaking into Tafuna High School and stealing school property including iPads will be sentenced Jan. 13, 2017 after he pled guilty to felony stealing.

Matthew Barja was initially charged with three counts of first-degree burglary and four counts of stealing — all felonies. However, under a plea agreement with the government and accepted by the High Court, the defendant pled guilty early last week to one count of stealing, while the rest of the charges were dismissed.

With the guilty plea, the defendant admitted that between Nov. 30 to Dec. 7 and 8, in 2015, as well as Jan. 1 and 2, 2016, he and two juveniles broke into Tafuna High School and stole school property such as a bag which contained forty-five iPads as well as a laptop that was inside the JROTC office. He also admitted that he took one of the iPads, which was valued at around $100.

One of the issues about which the court had sought further information, during questioning of the defendant on the plea agreement, is the cost of each iPad, so that the court could fashion sentencing accordingly.

Chief Justice Michael Kruse questioned the government as to what prosecutors are doing about the two juveniles involved, and assistant attorney general Gerald Murphy replied that the juveniles are also facing charges — but didn’t provide additional details. (Juvenile cases heard in family court are not public.)

Kruse also asked about the status of the iPads that were stolen, and Murphy responded that based on a report to the Attorney General’s Office, the goods that were stolen have been returned to the high school.

Responding to Kruse’s questions, Barja said he sold 8 iPads, took one with him and the rest were confiscated by police. Barja remains in custody unable to post bail.

UATAU FALANA’I

A 22-year-old man who faced several charges for breaking into three homes, will be sentenced early next year after reaching a plea agreement with the government that stops the case from going to trial.

Early last week, Uatau Falana’i pled guilty, under the plea agreement with the government and was accepted by the court, to three counts of first-degree burglary — all felonies — and the remaining charges were dismissed.

The defendant was in court last week Monday for his jury trial, starting with jury selection. However, Chief Justice Michael Kruse called attorneys for both sides for a private meeting. While details of the meeting are unknown, Samoa News understands that the outcome of the meeting resulted in moving forward with the plea agreement.

For the guilty plea, the defendant admitted breaking into three different homes this year — starting with the first home on Apr. 16 at 4a.m; followed on Apr. 16 at 4:15a.m; and the third home on May 14 at 5:15a.m, according to the plea agreement read in court.

Attorneys for both sides told the court that the plea agreement is in accordance with the wishes of the families affected by the defendant’s criminal actions. Falana’i, who remains in custody unable to post bail, will be sentenced Jan. 20, 2017.

SEMURANA LEAUMOANA

The High Court has set for Dec. 23, a probation hearing for Semurana Leaumoana, who is now in custody after the Probation Office filed a motion with the court that Leaumoana failed to comply with all conditions of his probation.

Court information at last Thursday’s probation hearing before Chief Justice Michael Kruse states that Associate Justice Lyle Richmond signed an arrest warrant in June this year for Leaumoana, who failed to comply with all conditions of his probation, which includes that he didn’t pay the fine ordered by the court and he didn’t visit the Probation Office.

According to court records, Leaumoana was convicted of felony second-degree burglary as a result of an incident at Puapua, Leone in 2013, in which he and a co-defendant broke into a sewing shop and Western Union. At sentencing he was placed on 7 years probation under several conditions including that he serve 28 months behind bars. However, after he served 12 months, the court decided to release him from jail so he could find permanent employment to pay for the fine of $1,000 as well as restitution of $3,390 to the victims — the sewing shop and Western Union.

For the Dec. 23 hearing, the Probation Office will present evidence that Leaumoana hasn’t paid the fine or the restitution.

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