Juvie DPS officers’ case update: Alo’s attorney says still no discovery

Pre-trial conference set for June 30, trial for June 2018
fili@samoanews.com

It’s been almost a month since four Public Safety officers, assigned to the Juvenile Detention Center, were arrested and charged with various crimes, including felony drug charges.

However, the defense attorney for one of the officers yesterday told the court, they have not yet received discovery from the government.

Public Safety officer Okesene Alo, one of the four officers charged in the case, was arraigned in High Court yesterday, after the government’s case against him was bound over from the District Court last week Wednesday.

During the arraignment hearing, Alo’s attorney Sharron Rancourt entered a not guilty plea, on behalf of the defendant, who is facing 14 felonies including 4 counts of unlawful possession of methamphetamine; 4 counts of unlawful distribution of methamphetamine; three counts of aiding the escape of a prisoner; and three counts of permitting the escape of a prisoner.

Alo, who remains in custody unable to post $50,000 bail, is also charged with 7 misdemeanor charges four counts of endangering the welfare of a child.

With the not guilty plea entered, the court moved to set a pre trial conference hearing within the next 60 days.

Assistant attorney general Christy Dunn informed the court that Alo’s case is related to two co-defendants — referring to officers Alofagia Letuli and Olafau Wilson — whose pre trial conference hearing is currently scheduled for June 2 and requested for Alo’s case to be joint with the his co-defendants.

However, Rancourt informed the court that the defense “has not received any discovery” from the government.

Chief Justice Michael Kruse asked the government, “What’s the hold up?” — to which Dunn replied that they have not received the police report from the Department of Public Safety.

Kruse recalled that “in my days” they were able receive a police report, without delays. (Kruse was in private practice many years ago.)

When Dunn again said they are waiting for the police report, Kruse asked, “You don’t know?” — to which the prosecutor acknowledged, “We don’t know” — but the government is working on getting the police report.

The court then scheduled pre trial conference for June 30, with trial set for July next year.

BACKGROUND

Before the case was bound over to High Court, District Court Judge Fiti A. Sunia dismissed 12 felony sex related charges including rape and two other felony counts against Okesene Alo, saying that the court was not satisfied with the evidence presented by the government for probable cause that a crime was committed.

During the preliminary examination hearing in District Court last Wednesday, the government called one witness to the stand, police Det. Filemoni Amituna’i, who led the investigation, which was handed to him in late November last year by then Police Commissioner Save Liuato Tuitele.

Rancourt argued at the time that the government had no solid evidence against her client but depended solely on statements from juvenile detainees, who were interviewed by Amituana’I; and she further argued the government’s case is based on hearsay, from juvenile detainees.

The government, which alleged that Alo is the “ringleader” — revealed that police are still investigating this case.

Meanwhile, Letuli and Wilson have pled not guilty to the charges against them with trial set for September next year.

Letuli is faced with nine felony charges, including three counts involving crystal methamphetamine. Wilson is facing 15 counts, including 12 felonies — four of them involve crystal methamphetamine.  It’s unclear at this point if either defendant has made bail.

The fourth officer charged in the case, Junior Utuga, will be in District Court later this month for a status hearing. He is faced with several misdemeanor counts.

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