Court Report

Translated by Samoa News staff

SOLOMONA TEOFILO

A man accused of assaulting his sister-in-law last year, is now facing a new charge after he allegedly assaulted another family member.

Solomona Teofilo was arrested and charged last October with second degree assault for allegedly assaulting his sister-in-law. He is accused of also putting a knife to the victim’s neck.

He was released on $5,000 bail but was back in jail following a High Court hearing last week Monday, where the defendant’s niece withdrew the $2,500 she put up for Teofilo's bail. The court prevented the government, during the hearing, from getting a response from the niece as to why she sought to withdrew her money, citing that the defendant’s rights are protected under the law.

Two days after the niece withdrew the bail money that she put up for her uncle, the government filed a new charge of second degree assault in the District Court against Teofilo, for the alleged recent assault of another family member.

Teofilo has since waived his right to a preliminary examination hearing in District Court and his case for the new assault charge is bound over to the High Court, where he will be arraigned sometime this week.

FORMER MISS AMERICAN SAMOA CHARGED WITH DRUNK DRIVING

Former Miss American Samoa, Anneliese Sword appeared in District Court last Thursday for traffic violation citations, including a misdemeanor charge of driving while under the influence of alcohol.

According to court information, Sword was stopped Wednesday night by police and taken into custody for suspected DUI, but was released that same evening after posting a $500 bond. She appeared in court the next day.

Sword's next court hearing is set for later next month. While out on bail, the court has set several conditions of release, which includes prohibiting her from operating a vehicle, as well as consuming alcohol.

POLICE OFFICER ORDERED TO APPEAR IN COURT

District Court Fiti Sunia has ordered that the police officer, who issued a traffic ticket to a driver, appear in court later this week.

Sunia’s order last Friday, was made during a hearing for David Talaga, who failed to appear in court for a traffic ticket. Talaga’s traffic ticket was issued by a police officer, whose identity was not made public by Sunia at the time of hearing, or by Assistant Attorney General Woodrow Pengelly when asked by Samoa News.

The court clerk twice called Talaga for his case, but he was not present. Sunia said that the traffic ticket issued by the police officer shows that Talaga is to appear in court on June 23, 2017, but this is not the date the court hears traffic violation cases.

Sunia said it appears that by putting this date, June 23, on the traffic ticket, the police officer is setting the court’s calendar and the court is to comply with it.

The usual practice is that all traffic violation cases are scheduled and called at 1p.m on Tuesdays and police officers are fully aware of this.

June 23 was a Friday, not a Tuesday.

This is not the first time that the court has ordered police officers, who issue traffic tickets, to appear in court to explain why such a traffic violation was issued to a driver.

There have been past incidents in which the court has ordered the officer who issued the traffic violation to pay the fine, cited in the traffic ticket, for failure to provide complete details of the traffic violation or delay in submitting to the court a copy of the ticket.

(Samoa News notes that the delay in submitting a copy of the traffic ticket appears to have been addressed, with the implementation last month by the Department of Public Safety, with assistance from the Judicial Branch, the “electronic-citation”, or e-ticket, where an issued traffic violation ticket is automatically received by the District Court. See Samoa News May 12 for details).

JUDGE ISSUES VERBAL MESSAGE TO POLICE

Speaking from the bench last week, District Court Judge Fiti A. Sunia said that if police know that there isn’t sufficient evidence to support a case against a suspect, then the accused should not be taken into custody. Otherwise, the court’s time and resources are wasted, said Sunia.

The statement was directed to Assistant Attorney General Woodrow Pengelly last Wednesday during court proceedings.

Sunia said the only other way to resolve this problem, as it continues to be faced by the court, is to subpoena the Police Commissioner to explain in court why this problem continues at the Department of Public Safety.

The judge’s statement was made during a hearing on the government’s case against Henry Nomura, who was taken into custody for public peace disturbance and made his initial appearance last week Wednesday. Sunia informed Nomura that the government didn’t file any charges against him and therefore he will be released. However, the judge noted that Nomura has an unpaid $35 traffic ticket that needs to be taken care of.

As Nomura was exiting the court room, Sunia raised his concerns with Pengelly over this continued problem of people being taken into custody while the police know very well they don’t have sufficient evidence on hand to file a complaint.

Two weeks ago, Sunia raised concerns over a police officer who issued five traffic tickets and placed them on the windshield of vehicles. Sunia questioned the legality of such tickets, which are not signed by the driver.

Sunia told the police officer, to inform his boss, that traffic tickets should be given to the driver, who allegedly violated traffic laws, and they are not to be placed on a vehicle’s windshield.

Comment Here