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Judge Sunia : 8 year overstayer — “Is this an Immigration lapse?”

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Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — A 28-year-old man who entered American Samoa on a 30-day permit 8 years ago appeared in District Court last week for his initial appearance.

According to the court affidavit, Malae Sola came to American Samoa on Oct. 30, 2010 and continued to stay in the territory without any legal documentation. He’s now married to an American Samoa woman.

District Court Judge Fiti Sunia wanted to know more about Sola’s case. The Immigration officer who was in court last week explained that Sola’s spouse has already filed a petition with the Immigration Board to transfer his sponsorship to her, and the Board needs to revisit Sola’s petition.

“How can this thing happen? Someone who came to our territory 8 years ago on a 30-day permit and continued to stay on island illegally but now he can file a petition to the Board asking for legal immigration status?” Sunia asked the Immigration officer who had no response.

“Is this an Immigration lapse?” The immigration officer said, “yes”.

Sunia said the court wants to know how people with illegal immigration status for many years can file a petition to the Board to renew their status.

He then ordered Sola to be remanded to custody without bail until his next court hearing, which is Dec. 14, 2018.

Sola was arrested last month on the allegation that he was engaged in a fight while intoxicated.


Man convicted of stealing ordered to pay fine, placed on probation

A 42-year-old man who was convicted of stealing, and later selling a tool box containing tools belonging to a mechanic, has been ordered to pay a $1,000 fine as a condition of his 7-year probation sentence.

Onosa’i Latu was convicted of stealing, a felony punishable by 7 years imprisonment, a fine of up to $5,000, or both.

During sentencing, Latu apologized to the court for what he did and asked for a second chance to return home to his family. He also apologized to the company that was affected by his actions and promised the court he will never do it again.

His attorney, Public Defender Michael White and prosecutor, Deputy Attorney General Laura Garvey asked the court for a probated sentence, without any jail time.

Garvey said the defendant stole the toolbox and then sold it to a third party who has since returned the toolbox to its owner, and the defendant has already paid back to the third party the money he received for the sale of the toolbox.

Acting Associate Justice Elvis P. Patea told Latu that in the year since this matter has been dragging on, it has presented unusual circumstances.

Patea said the court normally goes straight to sentencing after a 'change of plea' within a month; but in this case, the one-year period during which the case has been stalled, has been to his advantage because it has given the court the opportunity to see his behavior in public, and he has done well, which tells the court he is someone who'll do well on probation.

The court sentenced Latu to 7 years probation, under the condition that he serves 28 months in jail. The defendant was credited for the 83 days he served in prison, and the balance of his detention term is stayed, as long as he complies with all conditions of probation.

He is also ordered to pay a $1,000 fine within 6 months, and he is not to make contact with the company that was affected by his actions.

He is to remain a law-abiding citizen, and report to the Probation Office whenever he is ordered to do so.


The driver of the vehicle that was involved in a car accident in Tafuna a week ago Friday appeared in District Court this past week. Pita Naiuli received two traffic citations for careless driving and driving under the influence of alcohol.

Naiuli was arrested after the alleged car incident, and he spent 3 days at the Territorial Correctional Facility (TCF) before he was released on his own recognizance by Judge Fiti Sunia during his initial appearance, to await his next court hearing, which is Dec. 14, 2018.

The government claims that Naiuli's BAC was .33 - four times more than the normal level of alcohol that should be in a person’s system.


The government has filed an additional felony charge against Thomas William, who was arrested last week for driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI)

The new charge is felony driving, a class D felony, punishable by not more than five years in jail and a fine of not more than $5,000.

William made his initial appearance in District Court this week, where Judge Fiti Sunia established bond at $500.

If he posts bond, the court has ordered that William is not to drive at all while his matter is pending, nor is he to consume any alcohol.

The government claims that last Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018, police officers who were patrolling on the west side pulled over a pickup truck for speeding. The driver of the vehicle was later identified as William, the defendant in this case.

When officers approached William, they detected a strong odor of alcohol coming from inside the vehicle, and also his breath.

When asked for his driver's license, William informed officers that his license was suspended by the District Court four months ago, after a DUI conviction.

William is scheduled to appear in court Dec. 14, 2018 for a first pretrial conference.