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End of the year — Court cases still moving forward

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Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The government's case against Frankie Esekia has been dismissed.

District Court Judge Fiti Sunia ordered Esekia's immediate release last Friday, saying that after four months, there is still a lack of discovery and this violates Esekia's right to a fair and speedy trial.

Meanwhile, Peniata Ala is set for a jury trial August 10, 2020. Chief Justice Michael Kruse said the date could be earlier, if there is an opening in the court's calendar.

Brandon Peterson, charged with unlawful possession of a controlled substance (marijuana) is set for a pretrial conference January 31, 2019. Plea negotiations are ongoing and the defense requested a continuance of at least 30 days.

Peterson's attorney told the court last week that discovery has been turned over and there is an offer on the table.

Teneti Leouiti has been remanded to custody without bail, due to his immigration status. During court proceedings last week, it was revealed that Leouiti's immigration papers expired July 4, 2017 and there is no application on file for a renewal by his sponsor. His pretrial conference is set for January 23, 2019.

Faaleo Tevaga is also scheduled for a pretrial conference Jan. 23, 2019 and his bond is set at $200. District Court Judge Fiti Sunia denied the defense's motion to release Tevaga on his own recognizance, pointing out that Tevaga was placed on probation in September.

His attorney argued that Tevaga is employed, not a flight risk, and not a danger to society, but Judge Sunia was not swayed. If he is able to post bond, Tevaga is ordered to be law abiding, remain alcohol and drug free, and stay away from the Bowling Alley.

Iakopo Selesele was to be transported immediately to the Behavioral Center last week following court proceedings. His lawyer had requested a psych evaluation, "due to the interaction we've had".

Judge Sunia set bond at $1,000 to be posted — only following his psych evaluation. A status hearing is set for December 28, 2018 and a pretrial conference is scheduled for January 23, 2019. Selesele is ordered not to make any contact with the victims in his case, which include his sister and her kids. He is also ordered to find someplace else to live.

The government's case against Meriko Lomu — facing drug charges in two separate cases — has been continued, following a discussion between Chief Justice Michael Kruse and attorneys from both sides last Friday in High Court.

Kruse said he believed the issue was resolved but defense attorney Talaimalo Marcellus Uiagalelei said something came up as late as the day before (last week Thursday).