Court Report

Translated by Samoa News staff

BARJA SENTENCE TO 28 MONTHS

A 19-year-old man, described by the prosecutor, as the “leader” of a three-member group, who broke into Tafuna High School at least three times, has been sentenced by the High Court to 28 months imprisonment as a condition of his seven-year probation.

Matthew Barja’s sentencing hearing had been continued at least three times, as the court tried to get more information from the government based on the pre-sentence report regarding the two juveniles who were involved with the defendant for the break-ins at Tafuna High School.

The government kept telling the court that the case against the juveniles is pending in District Court, but failed to produce any evidence that it was.

The defendant admitted under a plea agreement that between Nov. 30 to Dec. 7 and 8, in 2015, as well as Jan. 1 and 2, 2016, that he and two juveniles broke into THS and stole school property such as a bag, which contained iPads, as well as a laptop that was inside the JROTC office.

Barja also admitted that he took seven iPads that were turned over to police, but evidence presented to the court late last month shows only six iPads.

During sentencing last Friday, defense attorney Mark Ude said he is saddened that the government still has not given evidence that charges have been filed against the two juveniles, who were with his client.

The defendant apologized to the court for his crime and asked for leniency in sentencing to allow him to return home to his family and to continue his education for a better future. From the five months he has been in jail, the defendant claimed that he has learned many lessons in order to improve himself in the future.

Ude argued for a probative sentence that would allow Barja to register as a student and take courses at the American Samoa Community College, and assistant attorney Bob Pickett supported the request.

Before the judges took a break in chambers to discuss a sentence for the defendant, they had a chance to review evidence — the school property — that was taken by Barja and the two juveniles and turned over to police.

The evidence presented to court, again, showed only six iPads and when questioned by the court, Pickett maintained that only six iPads were turned over to police and kept in the evidence room.

Chief Justice Michael Kruse revealed during sentencing that a speaker belonging to a student that was stolen from an office at THS by Barja and the two juveniles was how police learned of the break-in. He said the student whose speaker was stolen found out that the speaker was in the possession of another person.

Perhaps the positive outcome of this case, he said, is that most of the stolen property was recovered and turned over to police.

Besides the jail term, the defendant was ordered to pay a $1,000 fine; pay $2,210 in restitution of school property that was damaged during the break-in; and be a law-abiding citizen during the probation period.

And once the court receives confirmation that Barja has in fact registered to take courses at ASCC, he will be released from TCF and any remaining months of the jail term will be waived — under the condition that he attends ASCC.

GERHARD OTTO HALECK

During his arraignment hearing in High Court on Monday, drug defendant Gerhard Otto Haleck entered a not guilty plea through his attorney. Haleck, whose case was bound over from District Court last Friday, is out on bail and returns early next month to court for his pre trial sentence hearing.

Haleck is accused of receiving marijuana in a parcel that came through the US Post Office in Fagatogo from an address in Washington State. A K9 unit of the Customs detected the illegal substance.

DANNY MIKA

About thirty minutes after Chief Justice Michael Kruse issued an arrest warrant forDanny Mika for failure to appear in court last Friday morning for an already scheduled court hearing, Mika finally showed up.

However, Kruse was not pleased when Mika’s case was called again, after the judges were informed that the defendant was in the court room. The CJ raised his voice telling the defendant to abide with all conditions of his release and that includes showing up at all court proceedings, and to be on time.

Mika, who is facing one count of illegal drug possession, was told that his next court appearance is Feb. 3, while the court canceled the arrest warrant.

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