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Court says young people are not taking advantage of opportunities

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Drug offender sentenced to probation with jail time

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The court delivered a strong message last week during the sentencing of Apelu Jr Falaniko, 23, convicted of violating local drug laws, saying a lot of young people are taking the many opportunities available to them lightly, wasting their time and not utilizing it wisely to do better things in life.

According to the court, it has become common practice for young people who come in for sentencing — following a conviction — to ask for another chance.

It was revealed that Falaniko didn’t graduate high school but he holds a US passport, meaning he can go to the military or do something good, instead of wasting his life behind bars.

According to Probation, if Falaniko changes his life and stays away from people involved with alcohol and drugs, he can become a good person.

Falaniko was initially charged with one count of unlawful possession of a controlled substance (methamphetamine), a felony punishable by not less than 5 years, a fine of not less than $5,000 or both.

Under a plea agreement, Falaniko pled guilty to the amended lesser felony of unlawful drug possession, punishable by not more than 5 years a fine of not more than $5,000 or both.

Falaniko admits that sometime last June, he was in possession of a pipe used to smoke meth, and a straw with meth inside. He also admits that he gave drugs to other young men that hung out with him at a vacant house in Tafuna.

Police arrested Falaniko and another man at a vacant house in Ottoville, following a public peace disturbance call. Drugs were later discovered at the house.

The person who contacted the Tafuna Substation said he sees several young men with young girls partying at the vacant house almost every weekend. The caller lives across the street from the vacant house and said he used to see young girls being transported by unknown vehicles late at night.

Falaniko has been in custody since his arrest, unable to post a $10,000 bond.

Falaniko and another man were arrested at the vacant house, which was unlawfully occupied by the owner’s male relative, who used it to sell drugs to young people, including girls.

The other man, Vincent Mikaele, is facing charges of unlawful possession of a controlled substance (methamphetamine) and stealing — both felonies. Mikaele, also in custody, is scheduled to appear in court next month for a Change of Plea hearing.

During sentencing, Falaniko apologized for his actions and begged for a second chance to return home to care for his parents and serve his family.

“Please give me a chance to change my life and be a better person. I will never deal with drugs anymore nor violate any laws of this territory, but I will use the remaining days of my life wisely, to do good things for my family and the community,” Falaniko concluded.

Assistant Public Defender Rob McNeill said that after spending more than 11 months behind bars, Falaniko has learned a good lesson, that prison is not a good place for him, and he needs to move on with his life by attending and completing drug counseling.

Prosecutor Garvey supported McNeill’s argument, saying Falaniko is a suitable candidate for a probated sentence, as it will give him time to change his life and control his drug problem.

The court sentenced him to 5 years in jail and a $5,000 fine.

Execution of sentence was suspended and he is placed on 5 years probation on the condition that he serve 20 months, remain sober, and subject himself to random testing.

While confined, Falaniko is not eligible for trustee status.

Upon release from detention, Falaniko is banned from entering any bars, taverns or businesses that sell alcohol, neither is he to congregate with people who drink and use drugs.

The court instructed McNeill to advise his client that if he fails to comply with any of the set conditions, he will serve 5 years behind bars and pay $5,000.