A former American Samoa Power Authority employee, who worked at ASPA’s Aunu’u office, has been charged with one count each of felony stealing and embezzlement — also a felony — as a result of alleged missing money of just over $18,000, which was paid by customers for debit meter service.
The charges against Makerita Leituane were filed in District Court more than a week ago and the case was bound over to High Court last Friday, where the defendant pled not guilty — through her attorney, during an arraignment hearing.
Court information states that ASPA presented to the government the outcome of its internal probe of the alleged theft; and this resulted in a police investigation against the defendant, who had overseen the accounting of money collected from Aunu’u customers for debit meters.
It also says that for a long time, the ASPA main office on Tutuila didn’t receive accounting and money collected at the Aunu’u office, and it’s the reason Leituane was questioned, but she allegedly responded that the Aunu’u office was robbed and all of the money — a total of $18,050 — was stolen.
As the investigation continued, court information says, the defendant then allegedly recanted her original story and now alleges that she used the money for herself and was prepared to repay it.
As of last Friday, the defendant remained in custody unable to post a $10,000 bail, with another court hearing currently scheduled for early April. If she is able to post bail, the court set several conditions, which includes that she makes no contacts with government witnesses and remains a law-abiding citizen.
Felony stealing as well as embezzlement are each punishable by not more than 7 years imprisonment, or a fine of not more than $5,000, or both. The alleged theft of ASPA funds occurred last year.
The government has charged Elijah Leasau with one felony count of illegal possession of marijuana and the defendant appeared last week in District Court, which has since scheduled for later this week a preliminary examination hearing.
According to court information, it was last December that police stopped Leasau on the road as he was suspected of driving while under the influence of alcohol; and it was during this stop that police allegedly discovered a small amount of marijuana inside Leasau’s car. Police also noticed that Leasau’s eyes were red.
While the defendant is out on bail, he has been ordered to comply with various conditions of release such as being a law-abiding citizen and is prohibited from consuming alcohol or taking any illegal drugs.
A man accused of assaulting his girlfriend, is charged with three counts of third degree assault and one count of public peace disturbance — all misdemeanors.
Besides allegedly assaulting his girlfriend, Avetonu Alotu is also accused of assaulting a cousin who was trying to protect the victim, who ran towards the home of the defendant’s uncle. It’s also alleged in court filings that the defendant threw a chair towards his uncle.
The alleged assault stemmed from a dispute between Alotu and his girlfriend.
Alotu made his initial appearance last Wednesday in District Court. Bail, which was initially set at $500, was reduced to $300 by District Court Judge Fiti Sunia following a request by Alotu’s attorney, public defender Mathoni McCormick. It’s not clear as of yesterday, if Alotu was able to post bail.
If able to post bail, the defendant has been ordered by the court not to make any contact with any government witnesses in this case — including the girlfriend, the uncle and the cousin, and is prohibited from consuming alcohol and taking illegal drugs.
In explaining the reason for the court setting bail, Sunia said court records show that the defendant had previously been convicted with third degree assault and public peace disturbance five years ago. He says Alotu is again before the court on similar charges.
The High Court last week accepted Palemia Salanoa’s request for another chance to be with his family, after he was convicted of violating a condition of his 24-month probation, from a previous crime.
However, Chief Justice Michael Kruse cautioned Salanoa that any more violations of probation conditions, and he will be ordered by court to leave the territory and not return during the probation period.
For violation of his probation, the court sentenced Salanoa to be jailed until Mar. 10 this year, and upon release, he is given 90 days to find a job and be with his family. However, if the defendant fails to find a job, within the 90-day period, he will be ordered to leave the territory and remain outside of American Samoa during the 24-month probation.
FREDERICK CRICHTON & TONY KOME
Two young men, accused of assaulting an Ili’ili homeowner, will go to trial later this year after the defendants maintained their innocence, despite a plea agreement offer from the government.
Frederick Crichton and Tony Fa’atau Kome are each charged with two felony counts of second-degree assault and attempted first-degree burglary. The pair is accused of assaulting a homeowner in Ili’ili on the evening of Nov. 12.
After the alleged assault, the homeowner, a male, was able to get into his home, according to court information, which also said that Kome and Crichton then tried to kick down the door to the house calling out to the homeowner to come out to fight or else they would burn down his house.
At a High Court hearing last week, Public Defender Douglas Fiaui requested a trial date for his clients, saying that his clients have rejected the charges as well as a plea agreement from the government, which has already presented discovery in the case.
Crichton and Kome — both in their early 20s — are set to go to for trial in October and remain in custody unable to post bail.
(Original Samoan stories in last Friday and yesterday’s Lali section of Samoa News.)