Former cop in Taputimu drug bust awaiting extradition from WA
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Former DPS officer Steven Tuato’o who was convicted of Domestic Violence Misdemeanor Violation of a Court Order — escaped a jail term when he appeared before the King County Court last Friday, July 6, 2018 for sentencing.
Tuatoo was charged in Washington State with one count of Domestic Violence Felony Violation of a Court Order. The charge stemmed from an incident where he allegedly assaulted his wife on April 12, 2018.
However, under a plea agreement with the government on June 13 of this year, Tuato’o pled guilty to Domestic Violence Misdemeanor Violation of a Court Order.
According to court records provided to Samoa News by a spokesperson from the King County Attorney General’s Office yesterday, Tuato’o was represented by private attorney Adam Heyman.
Before Judge Johanna Bender delivered her decision, a chance was given to the defendant’s sister to address the court on behalf of her brother.
The court then ordered Tuato’o to serve a period of detention of 364 days at the King County jail, however, the period of detention was suspended and Tuatoo was placed on probation for 24 months under certain conditions he has to follow.
He will serve 85 days in jail, with credit for the time he already served, which is 85 days. Which means, Tuato’o was released after his sentence was announced last week.
Other conditions of his 24-month probation included that the defendant shall pay restitution in an amount to be determined, he shall have no contact with the victim throughout the period of probation and he shall remain law abiding.
As for his fugitive case, the court dismissed it. According to the King County spokesperson, the issue about Tuato’o’s extradition is now up to the American Samoa Government and the American Samoa Department of Public Safety.
The spokesperson further stated that Tuato’o has been remanded to the Regional Justice Center without bail, to await extradition proceedings.
Samoa News will follow up on the issue of when Tuato’o will be extradited from Washington to American Samoa to face charges.
Samoa News was unable to get a comment from Police Commissioner Le’i Sonny Thompson about this case — adhering to his earlier statement that he will not speak to Samoa News about any issues regarding DPS. He is however speaking with KHJ Radio.
According to a KHJ Radio report, Le’i confirmed that Tuato’o will be extradited from Washington State and that Governor Lolo has filed the extradition request with Washington authorities. He said Tuato’o will be returned to the territory soon.
Tuato’o came to the attention of law enforcement n Washington State when he was arrested and charged with assaulting his wife.
According to the court affidavit, Tuato'o was first arrested for allegedly assaulting his wife by King County Police on March 21, 2018.
Tuato'o was slapped with one count of assault. When he appeared before the Federal Way Municipal Court for that case, the court ordered that Tuato'o not make any contact with his wife.
The court affidavit states that the order was issued in open court on March 21, 2018 and set to expire on March 21, 2028.
On April 12, 2018 — three weeks after the order was issued — police arrested Tuato'o again for allegedly assaulting his wife inside their vehicle and inside the house, which resulted in the State filing the new charge of Domestic Violence Felony Violation of a Court Order against him.
“The defendant assaulted the victim in violation of the Domestic Violence no contact order while facing a pending charge for assaulting her from less than a month ago,” according to court filings.
BACKGROUND ON AMERICAN SAMOA CASE
Tuato'o was one of the three men arrested during a string of raids in Taputimu, Alofau and on the main road, by detectives of the DPS Vice & Narcotics Unit last November. The other two men arrested were Cody Wood and Taisia Lemalie.
During the raids, police confiscated items including a large quantity of methamphetamine and marijuana; 3 guns — all fully loaded; 144 bullets for the 357 magnum; various stolen items; and drug paraphernalia. Cash was also confiscated.
All three men were taken into custody and held for 48 hours to await the filing of criminal charges against them.
However, Tuato'o was released from the Territorial Correctional Facility (TCF) after the 48-hour holding period expired, and according to reliable sources, he immediately left the territory.
Samoa News reported in May of this year that Tuato'o was facing a domestic violence charge in Washington State and was subsequently arrested when he violated the ’no contact’ condition of his release while awaiting trial on this charge.
At the time, the King County Attorney General’s Office confirmed to Samoa News via-email that no extradition papers had been filed or received from the local DPS.