Court Report

Translated by Samoa News staff

ALLEGED WIFE BEATER CHARGED WITH FELONY ASSAULT

A man initially charged with two misdemeanor counts for allegedly beating his wife, is now facing a third count - felony second degree assault and the court has ordered the defendant not to make any contact with the wife.

To protect the victim, the wife, in these types of cases, Samoa News does not identify the husband by name.

According to court information, the wife suffered bruises to many parts of her body and including part of her face while her eyes had black bruises and were swollen. A Samoa News reporter inside the courtroom also noticed the swollen eyes and that she could barely open them.

Court information says the defendant allegedly used his bare hands to assault his wife.

The defendant was taken into custody two weekends ago for the alleged beating of his wife and made his initial appearance in District Court last Tuesday, where he was charged with two misdemeanor counts of third degree assault and public peace disturbance.

At the time of the hearing, the victim’s sister and her father were in the courtroom with the victim; and, when District Court Judge Fiti Sunia released the defendant on his own recognizance, Samoa News observed the victim shaking her head and turning towards the sister.

Sunia also ordered the defendant not to make any direct or indirect contact with the wife and not to violate any laws, while his case is pending in court.

The judge scheduled the next court hearing for the defendant on Jan. 30 in the Family, Drug and Alcohol (FDA) division of the High Court.

Samoa News understands that it was after the Tuesday hearing that the victim and her family went directly to police station in Fagatogo to discuss her case which resulted in a third charge - the felony second degree assault.

Then on Wednesday, Sunia signed an arrest warrant for the defendant, who was taken into custody and appeared the next day in District Court for the new felony count.

The court also set the defendant’s bail at $5,000, but assistant public defender Kate Hannaher sought to reduce bail for her client. However, assistant attorney general John Bengelly argued against it, saying that when the defendant was released on his own recognizance on Tuesday, the defendant immediately tried to contact his wife, despite the court’s order not to make any direct or indirect contact.

To protect the victim, Bengelly further argued that the defendant should not be released from the Territorial Correctional Facility. Additionally, the victim has filed a request with the court for an official protective order of the court that would prohibit the defendant from any type of contact with the victim.

While it’s unclear at this point as to when the court will respond to the protective order request, the court maintained the $5,000 bail and reiterated the verbal order from Tuesday for the defendant not to make any direct or indirect contact — such as phone or via a message through another person — with the wife.

The defendant is due back in court later this week.

CHARGES AGAINST INMATES DISMISSED

The District Court has granted the government’s request to dismiss a felony charge against two inmates accused of assaulting another inmate late last month inside the Territorial Correctional Facility.

The two inmates, Reggie Va’avale and Mosegi Solia Jr., were in court last Thursday for their preliminary examination hearing for allegedly assaulting inmate Muaiga Siatiu, aka Povi, in which the pair used a steel chair.

During the hearing, the government moved to dismiss the felony count of second-degree assault against Va’avale and Solia, while it plans to file a new charge of misdemeanor third degree assault against the pair. 

The court was informed that dismissing the felony charge — for each defendant inmate — came after discussion with Siatiu, who agreed to the misdemeanor charge, which is expected to be filed early this week.

FALANIKO STOWERS

The High Court has continued to Feb. 17 the pre trial conference hearing for drug defendant Falaniko Stowers, aka Nicole, who is a ‘fa’afafine’ or transgender woman, and referred to in court documents as a male but also a “fa’afafine”.

Stowers was in court last Friday for a hearing, where her attorney, acting Public Defender Douglas Fiaui informed the court that the defense has received the police report on this case, and it now awaiting the government to offer a plea agreement.

Assistant attorney general Gerald Murphy confirmed to the court that the government wants to expedite discussion as well as a plea agreement with the defense and is looking to complete this process early next month.

Chief Justice Michael Kruse responded that the court doesn’t want to see the usual practice of both the government and defense to wait until the last minute to announce a plea agreement.

Stowers is charged with one count each of unlawful possession of methamphetamine and unlawful distribution of methamphetamine — both are felonies.

(Original Samoan stories were published in the Lali section of Samoa News last Friday and over the weekend online.)

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