Court sentences overstayer to 28 months in jail

Kruse: Who has the authority to issue 7-day permits anyway?

Another overstayer appeared for sentencing before Chief Justice Michael Kruse last Friday.

Loimata Mika, 28, traveled to American Samoa on a 7-day permit and according to his statement to the court, he was here to look for a job.

Chief Justice Kruse during sentencing mentioned that the court was surprised by Mika's explanation that he entered the territory on a 7-day permit in search of employment. He wondered how realistic it is for someone to find a job in such a short period of time.

Kruse asked the Chief Probation Officer and the prosecutor, who has the authority to issue 7-day permits — is it the local Immigration Office or the government of Samoa? No answer was provided by either man to the court.

However, a senior official of the Immigration Office told Samoa News that 7-day permits are usually issued for delegations and groups from Samoa who travel to the territory for the purpose of providing entertainment during special events, like Flag Day.

Mika entered the territory last April and was arrested three months later in August 2016, following an incident whereby he unlawfully entered a home and touched the thigh of a female resident who was asleep.

Mika was initially charged with first degree burglary — a felony — and two misdemeanor charges of third degree assault and trespassing.

However, under a plea agreement with the government, Mika pled guilty to a lesser charge of second degree burglary and the misdemeanor charges were dismissed.

Mika admitted that on the evening of August 5, 2016, he illegally entered a home and headed straight to the bedroom where the female resident was sleeping. He further admits, under the plea agreement, that he touched the woman in a sexual manner, which caused her to wake up and yell at him to get out, which Mika did.

Prior to being sentenced last Friday, Mika had a chance to address the court, during which time he apologized for his actions and asked for leniency, a chance to return home to Samoa so he can work and help take care of his family.

Mika was unable to find work in the territory, because he has no valid identification card.

The defendant, who has been locked up at the Territorial Correctional Facility for a year, was sentenced to seven years probation, under the condition that he serves 28 months in jail, after which he is to depart the territory and not return anytime during the probationary period.

His pretrial confinement is counted towards his sentence.

Also, in an unprecedented decision, Chief Justice Kruse ordered that Mika is never to be on 'trustee' status. This follows the sentencing hearing last week of Joeita Fa'aaliga, who escaped from prison and was charged with two counts of stealing, all while he was held at the TCF as a "trustee".

During sentencing, Public Defender Douglas Fiaui, who represented Mika, urged the court to sentence his client to probation. Prosecutor, Assistant Attorney General Robert Morris did not object to the request for probation.

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