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Court wants to know how long it takes DPS to process police reports

Dept. of Public Safety building

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — District Court Judge Elvis P. Patea wants Assistant Attorney General Jason Mitchell to get a 'concrete idea' of the process involved in getting police reports ready and submitted in a timely manner.

Judge Patea alluded that the information is stuck in a kind of bottleneck (where the system itself creates a delay) and instructed the government's attorney to find ways to "remedy" the situation.

Judge Patea's comments came during the scheduling of a pretrial conference for Ueta Letuuga, who was making his initial appearance on an arrest warrant yesterday morning for private peace disturbance.

"The court does not want to set artificial dates… only dates that are realistic for everyone, including the attorneys, the defendants, and especially the court," Judge Patea said.

The calendar for the Family, Drug and Alcohol (FDA) court yesterday afternoon was, according to Patea, "ridiculous".

Samoa News notes that 36 cases were scheduled for FDA court yesterday, and all were for pretrial conferences except for one, which was a status hearing, based on the calendar.

"How long does it take DPS to get police reports over to the Public Defender's Office?" Judge Patea asked.

Assistant AG Mitchell responded, "it varies," adding that it could take up to 45 days.

"Why so long?" Judge Patea inquired. "I don't know," Mitchell said.

Samoa News should point out that it is not uncommon for defendants to have their cases called, only to have them continued to a later date because of the lack of discovery or other issues requiring the attorneys to ask for 'more time'.

Sometimes defendants sit no longer than 2 minutes next to their attorney while a continuance date is being requested and scheduled.

For Letuuga, the court released him on his own recognizance and his matter is transferred to the FDA court for a pretrial conference on March 4.

Judge Patea noted that the defendant appeared before the court last year for a PPD and endangering the welfare of a child. In that case, he was only fined.

For now, Letuuga is ordered to abide by standard conditions of release. In addition, he is to reside elsewhere while his case is pending, and he is not to leave or attempt to leave the territory. He is also ordered not to make any direct or indirect contact with the victim in this case, and because there is an indication in the  allegations that alcohol was involved, he is ordered to remain drug and alcohol free, and he is subject to random testing.