Hearing: deSaulles to travel off island —stop order question raised
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The Trial Division of the High Court of American Samoa has officially granted the motion filed by defendant Richard deSaulles and his attorney, allowing deSaulles to travel off island tonight for medical treatment in California.
According to the court’s order, handed down by Associate Justice Fiti A. Sunia, deSaulles was given permission to leave the island on July 11, 2019, which is tonight, and to return on Oct. 12, 2019.
However, a status hearing for deSaulles is now scheduled for July 19, to discuss the issue of Immigration stop orders for people who has been charged with criminal offenses.
deSaulles, who is accused of stealing $121,000 which was supposed to be held in a trust fund for the Hope Dialysis Center, appeared in court yesterday morning for his motion to travel, which was continued by the court two weeks ago.
Prosecuting the case was Assistant Attorney General Doug Lowe, while private attorney Marcellus Talaimalo Uiagalelei represented the defendant, who is out on a $20,000 surety bond.
When the case was called, Sunia stated that the reason for this week’s hearing is to make sure the defense files all the proper documents that support their motion to travel. Sunia then acknowledged receiving all supporting document the court requested from the defense.
When asked whether the government wished to add anything before the court delivered its decision, Prosecutor Lowe stated that despite the defense providing all of the supporting document as requested by the court, the government is still opposed to the defense’s motion.
“On what ground?” Sunia asked the government’s attorney.
Lowe stated to the court that the government still believes the defendant will pose a flight risk if the court allows him to travel. His family is no longer on island, his office has been closed down.
He also stated that the government believes that doctors at our local hospital and the Department of Health could easily do a medical evaluation of the defendant to verify that his medical condition is life threatening, necessitating travel.
“As this point, the government will continue to oppose the defense’s motion to travel,” Lowe told the court.
Uiagalelei on the other hand told the court that his client has provided all the necessary documents including proof of medical treatment in California. He further stated that not only has his client posted a $20,000 cash bond as requested by the court, but the court has also received sworn affidavits from the sureties for his bail.
For that reason, the defense said he does not know why the government is still opposing his client’s motion.
Sunia asked the government’s attorney whether the victim is aware of the defendant’s motive to travel off island.
Lowe said the victim has already been informed about this issue, and his only concern is the issue of restitution if the defendant doesn’t return on island to face his trial.
Sunia quickly retorted that the court is not a collection company; so, the issue of restitution is not before the court at this time.
A recess was called.
Upon delivering his decision, Sunia stated that the court has carefully reviewed all the necessary documents the defense has provided to support the defendant’s motion to travel off island for his medical treatment.
He said the court is satisfied with the reason the defendant is seeking off island treatment — that the treatment is not available on island — and that a recommendation from a specialist doctor in California provided the dates of the defendant’s appointment and treatment.
“Based on the doctor’s suggestion, the defense’s motion to travel is granted,” Sunia said. According to the court, the defendant is allowed to depart the territory on July 11, and return on island no later than Oct.12, 2019.
Sunia told Uiagalelei that he has to remind his client about the consequences he could face if he chooses not to return back to the territory and that the defendant should understand he would be a federal fugitive if he did not come back.
After granting the defendant’s motion to travel, Sunia then ordered the government’s attorney to turn over the defendant’s passport for his travel arrangements.
STOP ORDER ISSUE
When asked whether the government had issued a stop order for the defendant to stop him from leaving the island while his case is still pending, the government’s attorney responded by saying, no.
Sunia wanted to know why the government did not issue a stop order for the defendant.
Lowe did not respond and instead Assistant Attorney General, Christy Dunn, who was also in the court room during the proceeding responded saying the government can’t put stop orders on US citizens and US Nationals.
“Who says we can’t?” Sunia wanted to know.
Dunn said that it’s a policy that they were told when they were hired by the Attorney General’s office.
It was during that time Sunia asked Dunn to come to the front if she wished to respond to the court’s concern. She then stepped forward and sat at the prosecution desk next to Lowe.
According to Dunn, they had been advised by the Attorney General that they can’t issue stop orders to any US citizens or US nationals who face criminal charges.
“Even if there is a court order to stop them from leaving the island?” Sunia asked again.
Dunn replied, yes.
“This does not make sense to the court,” Sunia said.
Moreover, Sunia also stated that if this is the case, then why does the court bother to order those who have been charged with criminal offenses not to leave the territory without approval of the court, if the government cannot issue stop orders for those who are facing criminal charges.
Dunn stated that they have to trust these people that they will not leave the island while their cases are pending.
Sunia said that while the news media is present in court, the news will be in the newspaper and those who have criminal cases will read the newspaper and start buying their air ticket and leaving the island.
Dunn did not rest. She told the court that in the States, there is no law to stop US citizens from leaving.
Sunia told Dunn that we’re not in the States. We control our own laws and borders and the court wants to know more about the issue of stop orders for those accused of criminal offenses.
A status hearing for the deSaulles case is now scheduled for July 19 and according to Sunia, this hearing will be conducted in the absence of the defendant.
Chief Associate Judge Mamea Sala Jr and Associate Judge Tunupopo Alalafaga Tunupopo assisted Sunia on the bench.