Court Report

ausage@samoanews.com

RENE FINAU

A man who unlawfully entered a house at night and attempted to rape a 13-year-old girl last year was sentenced to 28 months in prison, as a condition of his 7-year probation sentence.

Rene Finau, 22, was initial charged with burglary in the second-degree and sexual abuse in the first degree — both class C felonies. However, under a plea agreement with the government, which was accepted by the court last month, the defendant pled guilty to burglary in the second degree and the amended count of attempted sexual abuse in the third degree, a class A misdemeanor.

With his guilty plea, Finau admits that last year, he unlawfully entered a home during nighttime hours for the purpose of committing a crime. While he was inside the home, he went straight to the room where the 13-year-old victim was sleeping for the purpose of having sex with her.

The victim screamed when she felt somebody touching her body, and this alerted her family and caused the defendant to flee the scene, running for his life as he was being chased by the victim's family members.

During sentencing, Finau apologized to the court for his actions and begged for a second chance to return home to care for his parents and his family.

“I feel I made a mistake and I am truly remorseful for what I did," he said, adding that he wants another chance so he can change his life and be a better person.

He promised never to take part in such actions again, and said he will use the remainder of his life to do good things for his family, his church and his village.

Deputy Public Defender Michael White, Finau's attorney, said that after spending more than eleven months behind bars, his client has learned a lesson, he realizes that prison is not a good place for him, and he needs to move on with his life.

White told the court that Finau has an alcohol problem, and he needs to attend and complete a specialized program so he can turn his life around.

When he addressed the court, Finau promised he will not consume alcohol or be involved with any type of illegal drugs.

Assistant Attorney General Robert Morris supported White’s argument, saying the government believes Finau is a suitable candidate for a probated sentence, and the court will manage his probation, which will give him time to change his life and address his alcohol problem.

He however reminded the court that Finau entered the room and tried to have sex with a 13-year-old girl while she was asleep. He pointed out that there were other children present in the room when the defendant entered.

Acting Associate Justice Elvis P. Patea told the defendant that if he wants to change his life, he needs to stop consuming alcohol and/ or illegal substances.

The court sentenced Finau to an imprisonment term of 7 years for the crime of burglary in the second degree, and 1 year for third degree attempted sexual abuse.

His sentences will run concurrently, meaning at the same time.  However, execution of the sentences are suspended and he is placed on probation for 7 years, under the condition that he serves 28 months in jail without release, except for medical reasons or an order of the court.

He is also ordered to remain a law abiding citizen, report to the probation office once a month upon release, and not possess or consume alcohol at any time. He is to submit to random alcohol and drug testing and he is not to make any contact with the victim or her family.

Under the law, he must register as a sex offender.

TAVITA FOUILETUALA JR

A young man who was convicted of stealing — and later selling — a fishing rope from the Samoa Fishing Management Company (SFMC) has been ordered by the court to pay a $1,000 fine as a condition of his 7-year probation sentence.

Tavita Fouiletuala Jr. was convicted for stealing — a felony, punishable by a term of imprisonment of seven years, a fine of up to $5,000, or both.

During sentencing, Fouiletuala apologized to the court for what he did and asked for a second chance to return home to his family. He also apologized to the company that was affected by his actions and promised the court that he will never do it again.

Both his attorney, deputy public defender Michael White and the prosecutor, deputy attorney general Robert Morris asked the court for a probated sentence without any period of incarceration.

Morris informed the court that the defendant stole the fishing rope from the SFMC, and he then sold it to a third party. The third party has since returned the fishing rope to SFMC, and the defendant has already paid back to the third party the money he received for the sale of the fishing rope.

Acting Associate Justice Elvis P. Patea told Fouiletuala that in the year since this matter has been dragging on, it has presented unusual circumstances.

Patea said the court normally goes straight to sentencing after a 'change of plea' within a month, but in this case, the one year period during which the case has been stalled, has been to his advantage because it has given the court the opportunity to see how he behaves out in public, and he has done well, which tells the court that he is someone who'll do well on probation.

The court sentenced Fouiletuala to 7 years probation, under the condition that he serves 28 months in jail. The defendant was credited for the 69 days he served in prison last year, and the balance of his detention term is stayed, as long as he complies with all conditions of his probation.

He is also ordered to pay a $1,000 fine within 6 months, and he is not to make contact with the company that was affected by his actions.

He is to remain a law abiding citizen, and report to the probation office whenever he is ordered to do so.

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