Court Report

Translated by Samoa News staff

FA’ANENEFU HALL PLEADS DOWN TO MISDEMEANOR ASSAULT

A young mother of three, accused of stabbing a relative using a “sharp weapon,” has been sentenced to 2 years probation after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor charge, under a plea agreement with the government which was accepted by the court.

Twenty-five-year old Fa’anenefu Hall was taken into custody last week and charged with first degree assault. She was accused of using a broken piece of glass to stab a 22-year-old female relative at the defendant’s home in Leone. The victim has since moved out and is now residing with family members in another village.

After three separate court hearings last week, the defendant appeared again in court this past Monday for a preliminary examination hearing, where the government announced that it had reached a plea agreement with the defendant, who pled guilty to a misdemeanor — third degree assault — amended down from a felony.

Third degree assault is punishable by not more than one-year in jail, or a $1,000 fine, or both.

With the guilty plea, Hall admits to using a broken piece of glass to stab her niece. On the night of the incident, according to court information, the defendant cracked a wine bottle and used a piece of broken glass to stab her niece on the hand and face.

After the plea was accepted by the court on Monday, the defendant was released from jail where she had spent eight days in custody.

Hall returned to court on Tuesday for sentencing, where she apologized for her crime, and sought leniency that would allow her to return home to care for her three children, including a 6-month-old infant who is being breastfed. She also apologized to her niece and told the court that she is remorseful for what she did.

Hall’s attorney, Assistant Public Defender Kate Hannaher requested the court to accept the 24-month probative sentence without jail time, as stipulated in the plea agreement. The Ass’t PD noted that Hall is a first-time offender and she needs to be home to take care of her children.

Assistant Attorney General Woodrow Pengelly acknowledged the seriousness of the defendant’s actions, which caused bodily injuries to her niece, but the government supported the defense's request for probation without jail time.

Before rendering sentence, District Court Judge Fiti A. Sunia shared the court’s thoughts on the case, reflecting on the seriousness of the defendant’s actions.

Sunia told the defendant that what she did could have produced more serious consequences, such as the loss of a life. He said it’s clear from court records that the defendant is a young mother, 25, who is unemployed with three children but was consuming alcohol and was intoxicated at the time of the stabbing.

Sunia said the court does not take these types of cases lightly and told the defendant to take a serious look at the choices she makes, which will be a priority in her life? Consuming alcohol or the welfare of her young children.

The court had considered imposing a 12-month jail term but instead placed the defendant on 24-months probation, with several conditions, including a ban from consuming alcohol, paying a $200 fine, being a law-abiding citizen, and attending and completing alcohol and anger management counseling.

The most important condition, according to the judge, is that the defendant will serve 60 days in jail, and the 8 days she spent in pre-trial confinement will be counted towards the jail term, which is waived as along as the defendant complies with all of the probation conditions set by the court.

Before the hearing adjourned, Sunia again reminded the defendant about the various conditions of probation and told her that the court is giving her a chance to turn her life around and now it's up to her to decide.

He added that if she doesn’t comply with any or all conditions of probation, she will be ordered to serve the remainder of the 60-day jail term. “Choose your priorities wisely — either alcohol or your three children,” were Sunia's parting words to Hall.

CASE OF KILLING THE “WILD” COW

During a status hearing involving parties in a case from Ta’u, Manu’a, District Court Judge Fiti Sunia wondered whether or not it’s time to look at setting up a court facility in Manu’a to handle cases within the island group, making it easy for residents, who currently have to travel to Tutuila to appear in court. 

The hearing was on a complaint filed by Manu’a Sen. Nuanuaolefeagaiga Saoluaga Nua against Mauola Mauola and his wife, who are being sued to recover debt owed to Nuanuaolefeagaiga.

During a status hearing last Thursday, Nuanuaolefeagaiga told the court that not only does the couple owe him for the use of his property, Mauola also put-down (killed) a cow belonging to him without permission or informing him before it happened.

The court had initially set a hearing for June 19 but Mauola didn’t show up and therefore  the matter was continued to last Thursday, during which the defendant appeared and explained that he wasn't able to catch a flight from Manu’a until last Wednesday morning.

When Sunia asked if both sides were prepared to proceed with the hearing, Mauola said he didn't have a chance to talk with Nuanuaolefeagaiga and he was also not clear on why the senator had filed a complaint against him.

Nuanuaolefeagaiga informed the court that he is ready to proceed, but he wanted to know if the defendant is prepared to pay back the debt that is owed to him.

It took a long time for the judge to shuffle his calendar around so that Mauola wouldn’t have to travel back and forth to Manu’a for the next hearing. The case will be heard on Aug. 7

Sunia said that perhaps the court should open a branch in Manu’a so that it can hear these types of cases in the island group, and to save money for Manu’a residents who have to travel to Tutuila to attend court proceedings.

In response to Samoa News queries following the court hearing, Mauola said the cow that he is accused of putting down, does not belong to Nuanuaolefeagaiga, but instead, it was a wild cow that was roaming the mountains of Ta’u island, destroying plantations and other property belonging to residents there.

Because the cow was destroying his plantation, Mauola said he killed the animal and thereafter informed village chiefs about it. An older matai then told him to clean up the cow and share the meat with all the families in the village.

Mauola told Samoa News that he didn’t get any share of the cow meat that was distributed to families in the village. However, he says Nuanuaolefeagaiga is asking the court for him to pay the senator $1,500 for the cow.

Specific details on Nuanuaolefeagaiga’s complaint, including the alleged debt owed by Mauola, were not immediately available at press time.

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