Court Report

ausage@samoanews.com

JOE TOGITOGI

A man from Nuuuli who escaped from confinement while serving time for a previous crime has been convicted of a felony — escape from confinement — punishable by imprisonment of not more than 5 years, and/ or a fine of not more than $5,000 or both.

Joe Togitogi, 23, was convicted of the new charge this week.

Under a plea agreement, Togitogi admits that on/or about April 16th, 2016, he escaped from the Territorial Correctional Facility while serving a 5-year sentence handed down in 2015 for assault in the second degree.

Togitogi admits that his actions that day were without legal justice or excuse.

The government is recommending that Togitogi serve a term of 3 years in confinement, to run consecutively with his previous sentence.

Togitogi is not new to the justice system. He first appeared in Court back in 2013 when he was convicted of assaulting a homeless man. At the time, he was ordered to serve 20 months in prison as a condition of a 5-year probation term.

A few months after he was released from prison in 2015, police arrested him again for assaulting another man. In that case, Togitogi was convicted of assault in the second degree, and was ordered to serve 5 years in prison.

Last year, while imprisoned, Togitogi escaped from the TCF.

Togitogi is scheduled to reappear before the Court on Dec. 13th for sentencing.

MATAUPU MAMONA

A man who is serving a 30-year sentence for assaulting his wife, which resulted in her death, is asking the Court to allow him to have all the transcripts of his jury trial — free of charge — so he can prepare for his appeal.

The High Court has taken under advisement Mataupu Mamona’s motion, filed by his attorney, Douglas Fiaui who pointed out that his client has a right to appeal, and he is not able to afford the cost of the transcripts because he is behind bars.

Chief Justice Michael Kruse told Fiaui the Court’s problem is that his client was convicted by a jury, and they were the ones who heard the evidence of the case, which contributed to their decision to convict him.

Mamona is remanded to custody to await a decision on his motion.

A jury of four women and two men found Mamona not guilty for the charge of first degree murder; however, he was convicted of first degree assault, public peace disturbance, and false reporting, after the jury heard evidence of the case during a week long trial.

The case made its way to authorities after the couple's 9-year old son reported to is teacher what he saw his father do to his mother — and from there, the case turned into a homicide.

The son was the key witness for the government, who testified that through a hole in the door of his parent’s room, he saw his father putting a rope around his mother’s neck and pulling the rope until she was no longer breathing.

His father had told police when he entered their bedroom, he found that his wife had hung herself, and he untied the cloth and brought her down. Mrs. Mamona was admitted to the LBJ Hospital and was put on life support but she could not be revived.

TAO LIU

Chief Justice Michael Kruse has accepted a motion filed by Tao Liu through his attorney, Public Defender Douglas Fiaui, to waive his right to a jury trial, and let a panel of judges decide the matter through a bench trial.

Through an interpreter, Liu told the court this week that after he discussed the matter with his attorney, he feels it's in his best interest to let a panel of judges — not jurors — decide his fate.

Liu, an Asian man being held in custody without bail, is accused of possessing a handgun and drugs allegedly found during a traffic stop on the evening of Aug. 21, 2016.

He is facing eleven charges including attempted assault, unlawful possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute, unlawful possession of a controlled substance (marijuana), unlawful possession of controlled substance (methamphetamine), possession of an unlicensed firearm, resisting arrest, careless driving, and public peace disturbance.

Allegations against Liu stem from an incident that occurred last August when police stopped his vehicle for speeding in Faganeanea. During the stop, the government alleges that Liu was removing items from his backpack and was trying to hide them on the floor of the van, pushing them back with his right leg.

It’s alleged that during a police search of Liu’s vehicle, they uncovered a 45 caliber gun, which was fully loaded with live ammunition; cut up straws sealed on both ends containing methamphetamine; two medium sized clear plastic bags containing marijuana; a glass pipe commonly known to be used to smoke ice; and a digital scale commonly used to weigh small amount of drugs for sale.

When questioned by police, Liu admitted that the ice, marijuana and the handgun belonged to him.

Two months after he was arrested, Liu escaped from confinement. According to the government, Liu was recaptured the next day.

He remains in custody, awaiting his bench trial set for Dec. 18th.

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