Drug cases dominate court calendar last Friday
Four drug cases were on high court’s calendar last Friday. One was granted a continuance, while three were heard by Chief Justice Michael Kruse.
GALU NOFOA AND IOSEFA ALO
One of the two defendants in a drug case that surfaced last year and led to two Tafuna High School students being taken into custody, has pled 'not guilty' to one count of unlawful distribution of a controlled substance — marijuana.
Galu Nofoa, who remains in custody unable to post bail, appeared in High Court last Friday for a change of plea hearing, where Assistant Attorney General Kristy Dunn read the plea agreement reached between the government and defense.
Under the agreement, Nofoa admitted that around Oct. 5, 2017 he “gave marijuana to J.M., [a] minor.”
Chief Justice Kruse asked the defendant how much marijuana he gave to the minor and the defendant responded, “one cigarette.”
Both the government and defense have recommended a probative sentence, which includes 50-year-old Nofoa being deported and remaining outside of the territory during his probation period.
The defendant, represented by Public Defender Douglas Fiaui, is aware that the final decision rests with the court.
Unlawful distribution of a controlled substance is a felony punishable by not more than 20 years imprisonment, not more than a $20,000 fine, or both, according to local law.
Kruse said that because the case involves a minor, a pre-sentence report is required from the Probation Office and sentencing is set for Feb. 9th.
Nofoa’s case is being prosecuted separately from co-defendant, Iosefa Alo, who was a public elementary school teacher at the time of his arrest and remains in custody unable to post bail.
Alo also appeared last Friday in High Court for a pre-trial conference hearing, where his attorney informed the court that the defense has received discovery in the case and requested a two-week continuance to allow both sides to continue discussions, as a resolution is yet to be reached.
The court granted the continuance to Jan. 19th.
Alo is facing one felony count of unlawful distribution of a controlled substance - methamphetamine.
According to the government, an official from Tafuna HS contacted the Tafuna police sub-station to report that two students were found to be in possession of a glass pipe. The pair, who were observed by a school security guard smoking something, were taken to the office for questioning.
A glass pipe containing a crystal-like substance and a lighter wrapped in a red shirt were discovered in a bag belonging to one of the two students, C.K, who allegedly told police that he smoked ice with Alo on Oct. 4th inside an outhouse near the teacher’s home in Lauli’i.
The other student, J.M., allegedly told police that he received marijuana from his uncle Galu Nofoa on the night of Oct. 5th, and he brought it to school the following day and smoked it.
STOWERS AND TUI
Two other drug cases on the court calendar last Friday included the sentencing hearing for Falaniko Stowers, a.k.a, Nicole, who was convicted last month by a jury, of unlawful possession of crystal methamphetamine.
Kruse continued the matter to Jan. 19th because Associate Judges Muasau T. Tofili and Fa’amausili P. Pomele — who assisted him on the bench during the trial — are both off island attending judicial education.
Sonny Tui, who was an Education Department employee at the time of his arrest last December, pled 'not guilty' during his arraignment and his pre-trial conference is set for Feb. 9th.
Tui, who remains in custody unable to post bail, is charged with three felony counts of unlawful possession of a controlled substance — crystal methamphetamine; unlawful possession of a controlled substance with the intent to distribute; and authorizing illegal drugs to enter American Samoa.