Jury trial begins for former school teacher accused of giving meth to students
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The jury trial of a former school teacher, who was charged last year with one count of unlawful distribution of methamphetamine to a high school student, began yesterday in High Court.
Iosefa Alo, who has been in custody since his arrest, unable to post a $20,000 cash bond is facing one count of unlawful distribution of a controlled substance, to wit; methamphetamine, punishable by not more than twenty years imprisonment and a fine of not more than $20,000, or both.
Prosecuting the case are two females: Assistant Attorney General Christy Dunn and Laura Garvey, while Assistant Public Defender Rob McNeill is representing Alo.
A six-member jury — four females and two males — was selected this past Monday.
The government’s lead investigator is Det. Jimmy Tagata, while Paepaetele Suisala Jr. is the defense’s lead investigator.
Prosecutor Garvey explained to the jurors, what the government is calling “facts of the case”, while McNeill's advice is: be patient and listen carefully to all the evidence of the case.
The government is expected to call several witnesses to the stand, including two detectives, one DOE official, and the student who is the alleged victim in this case.
PROSECUTOR’S OPENING ARGUMENTS
According to Garvey, it was Oct. 6, 2017 when a student at Tafuna High School brought a glass pipe containing a white crystalline substance to school, and smoked it on campus.
The name of the male student was mentioned in court, but in the court affidavit, the government refers to the student as (C.K).
A security guard who was on duty that day observed two students smoking something and they were brought to the office for questioning. A search was conducted on C.K’s school bag where a glass pipe containing a white crystalline substance and a lighter wrapped in a red shirt were discovered.
A call for police assistance was made immediately afterwards.
According to the government, the two students were transported to the Tafuna substation and the head of the DPS Vice & Narcotics Unit was notified.
The two students were interviewed separately by police.
C.K was interviewed in the presence of his mother, while the other student, who is identified in the court affidavit as J.M., was questioned in the presence of his sister.
According to C.K., on Oct. 4th, he smoked ice (methamphetamine) with Alo inside an outhouse near the teacher’s home in Lauli’i.
When he went to school the following day, J.M. gave him 3 marijuana joints. After school that same day, he sold half of a marijuana joint to one of his friends, while another friend smoked the other half. He then gave Alo the 2 remaining marijuana joints.
On Oct 6th, according to C.K., school teacher Alo gave him a glass pipe loaded with ice and told him to sell it for $30 cash, or marijuana joints in return for the ice inside the pipe.
C.K. said when he arrived at school, he and J.M. smoked the glass pipe with ice behind the cafeteria. They were caught by a security guard when they went to smoke a cigarette behind campus grounds.
C.K. told police that when they were transported to the Tafuna substation, he saw J.M. hide a marijuana flint in the rear pocket of the passenger seat. Police searched the unit and discovered a small clear baggie with one hand-rolled cigarette inside, along with a lighter and rolling papers.
The green leafy substance in the joint tested positive for marijuana.
C.K. was booked and transported to the Juvenile Detention Center.
McNeill opened up by saying it is a privilege for him to represent Alo, whom he described as an honest man.
“There is only one issue in this case," he said, "who gave the methamphetamine to C.K?”
According to McNeill, “Iosefa did not give methamphetamine to C.K, and there is no proof of that allegation. No one witnessed that happened, these are just allegations against my client."
McNeill told jurors that the evidence the government will present during trial will not support their allegations, and the government will only rely on C.K.’s statement to prove their case; however, they must present evidence to prove that it was Alo who gave C.K. methamphetamine.
He urged jurors to be patient and listen carefully to the evidence, reminding them that it’s their duty to weigh all the evidence and consider all the facts.
“After hearing all the evidence of this case, you will be given a chance to consider the facts, and you will see the quality — and also the quantity — of the evidence and find that Alo did not give methamphetamine to C.K,” McNeill said.
The trial resumes at 9a.m. today.
Presiding over the case is Chief Justice Michael Kruse, assisted by Associate Judges Satele Lili’o Satele and Muasau T. Tofili.