Former DPS officer who fled drug charges, to be extradited from WA
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Former DPS police officer Steven Tuato’o who ran from local authorities in November of last year will be extradited to American Samoa to face charges against him, after he was served with the copy of an arrest warrant from American Samoa last month while being detained at the Regional Justice Center in Seattle, WA.
This was confirmed to Samoa News by the King County Attorney General’s Office yesterday via-email.
A spokesperson for the King County Attorney General’s Office told Samoa News that a copy of an arrest warrant from American Samoa, signed by Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga was served to Tuato’o when he appeared in court on June 13.
“A copy of the governor’s warrant from American Samoa was issued and served to Tuato’o, which means he was extradited, so our fugitive case against him was dismissed on June 13, 2018,” the spokesperson said in an email to Samoa News.
Furthermore, Tuatoo will be escorted back to American Samoa once his case in Washington State is over.
Tuatoo was charged in Washington State with one count of Domestic Violence Felony Violation of a Court Order. The charges stem 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, Tuatoo pled guilty to the Domestic Violence misdemeanor violation of a court order case. Tuatoo will be sentenced this Friday, July 6.
Negotiation for his extradition will be finalized after his sentencing this week.
According to the court affidavit, Tuato'o was first arrested by King County Police on March 21, 2018 for assaulting his wife.
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. He was thereafter released on a $25,000 surety bond.
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.
The King County Superior Court Judge granted the State’s motion to increase bail and set the defendant’s bond at $185,000
According to court filings, on Apr. 12, an officer from Kent Police was dispatched to contact a victim in the Kent Police Station lobby, a victim of a No Contact Order Violation. The victim was identified as Tuato'o’s wife, who was accompanied by her sister-in-law (Tuato'o’s sister).
The victim told police that it was during the drive home, after taking their son to school, that Tuato'o began accusing her of having an affair. He became angry and as they neared their home, Tuato'o allegedly struck her in the leg and arm.
Court filings state that when the couple arrived home, Tuato'o continued with his accusations and he also kneed his wife in the leg.
"At one point, Tuato'o backed away but then got up in his wife’s face and began yelling at her. He then allegedly struck her in the nose with a closed fist, which caused her nose to bleed. His wife screamed out in pain.”
Court filings note that Tuato'o's sister was in the home at the time of the incident, and she heard the victim screaming so she went downstairs. That's when Tuato'o exited the house and drove off.
The defendant’s sister told police that she did notice that the victim had a bloody nose.
Tuato'o was later arrested and taken to the Kent Police Station for questioning, where he told police he never hit his wife in the vehicle, but he did hit her in the house.
He also admitted to police that he kneed his wife in the leg, and he punched her in the nose.
“I meant it to be a fake but I did hit her in the nose," Tuato'o told police, adding, “I was surprised by the blood.”
According to the King County Prosecutor's Office, the status of Tuato'o being a fugitive "will be largely dependent on the progress of that case.”
A spokesperson also told Samoa News that DPS has never contacted them or the police department in an effort to bring Tuato'o back to the territory to answer the charges against him.
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.
A total of $54,003 in cash was confiscated from the home of Wood in Taputimu, in addition to the $459 found on him.
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.
During a DPS press conference late last year, Samoa News was told that all three men were charged and had to make their initial appearances in the District Court on the last week of November 2017. However, Tuato'o never showed up.
It’s believed Tuato'o, who was a DPS officer for many years, was never served with an arrest warrant.
Both Wood and Taisia are still in custody, unable to post bond — $200,000 for Woods and $5,000 for Taisia.