Court Report

Translated by Samoa News staff

MELVIN ETEUATI

A man from Amouli who was charged in two separate cases involving burglary and stealing, has been sentenced to serve just over two years imprisonment and ordered to pay back the money he stole.

For the first case, Melvin Kuresa Eteuati, 20, was charged with one count each of second-degree burglary and stealing. He faced identical charges in the second case, in addition to one misdemeanor count of property damage in the third degree.

Last month, Eteuati reached a plea agreement with the government, whereby he agreed to plead guilty to the burglary count from the first case and the stealing charge in the second case, while the rest of the charges from both cases were dismissed.

During a sentencing hearing early last week in High Court, Assistant Attorney General Kristy Dunn explained that Eteuati stole $500 and other property from a rental home in the first case. In the second case, the defendant broke into a store and stole $700 and other items.

Under the plea agreement, the defendant is to pay back the cash he stole in both cases. According to court information, the charges from the two cases stem from an incident that occurred in September 2016, when the defendant broke into a rental home and a store.

Prior to the Court handing down its sentence, Eteuati apologized to the Court and asked for leniency. He said he is remorseful and apologized to the rental home occupant and store owner.

Eteuati’s attorney, Public Defender Douglas Fiaui requested that the court support the Probation Office's recommendation for a probative sentence.

Chief Justice Michael Kruse noted that the defendant was born in American Samoa and had many opportunities to find a better way of life instead of breaking into a home and a business and stealing money and other property.

The defendant was sentenced to a jail term of 28 months as a condition of his 7-year probation. He was also ordered to repay the total amount of cash he stole from the rental home and the store. Other conditions of probation include being a law-abiding citizen and not committing any crimes.

FA’ASI’I AUAPA’AU

The High Court has continued to today, the public reading of a plea agreement between the government and Fa’asi’i Auapa’au, who was initially charged with first-degree robbery.

The government has amended the charge down to felony stealing.

Auapa’au was in court early last week for a change of plea hearing, where he agreed to plead guilty to felony stealing. Under the plea agreement, Auapa’au admits that sometime on Dec. 16, 2016 he broke into a store in Nu’uuli and stole $260.

However, the court had questions regarding provisions of the agreement, and the court wants both sides to clarify and provide further explanation before a decision is handed down, on whether to accept it or not.

EDWARD EARY JR.

The High Court has continued to June 27 the status hearing on the government’s case against Edward Eary Jr., after the defense announced at a hearing last week that it has received a plea offer from the Attorney General’s Office.

Public Defender Douglas Fiaui told the court that his client is prepared to accept the plea agreement that was recently presented by the government, but additional time is needed  so that he can further discuss in detail the plea with the defendant.

Chief Justice Michael Kruse wanted to know the provisions of the agreement. Fiaui responded that his client would plead guilty to some of the charges and in exchange the government would request that the court dismiss the remaining counts.

Kruse asked how much time the defense needs to review the plea so that the next hearing is scheduled on the court’s calendar. Fiaui said only a short period of time. However, the defense didn’t give a time frame needed to review the plea, prompting Kruse to voice the court’s concern and cited as an example, a case from 2015.

In that case, Kruse said the defense and government were given time to review and negotiate a plea agreement, which was reached by both sides, but no one bothered to inform the court about it. He said the plea agreement reached at the time was discovered by the Probation Office.

According to court information, Eary is charged in two separate cases. In the first one, he faces two counts of first-degree burglary while he faces four counts of first-degree burglary in the second case.

The defendant’s crimes, breaking into homes on the western side of the island, were carried out earlier this year in February. When he was arrested and charged, the defendant’s bail was set at  $5,000, which was posted by his father.

However, during a hearing in March, the government informed the court that the defendant's father no longer wants to post the money for bail, because the father is concerned that the defendant is not complying with all conditions of release set by the court.

The defendant, who was in court at the time for the hearing, was immediately taken into custody after the government’s request was granted by the court.

Eary remains behind bars at the Territorial Correctional Facility, and returns June 27 to court for a status hearing.

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