Lomu trial: Gov’t witnesses testify — It was not a routine shift, they watched a movie
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Government witnesses, over the last two days of the Mosese Lomu jury trial, have pointed to actions that were not routine as part of what happened on the night where inmate Manu Lefatia allegedly escaped from the Territorial Correctional Facility (TCF) and shot a man in Leone.
Among the five witnesses the government has called so far were the two former TCF officers, who were on the same shift with Lomu — on the night of Aug. 11, 2018 until the morning of Aug. 12.
Carter Soliai and Junior Kuka were members of the morning shift when the alleged incident happened. Lomu was the Watch Commander for the shift, while Soliai and Kuka were field officers.
Soliai stated that contrary to statements made by Lomu, when Lefatia’s cell was checked at around 3:30a.m Lefatia was not inside his cell, but he was later found around 3:45 a.m outside of his cell near another inmate’s cell.
He further said that aside from the initial headcount conducted at around 11p.m on Aug. 11, no other head count was done until they were instructed by Lomu to go and check Lefatia’s cell and to see if he was there at around 3:30 a.m — this was after Lomu received a phone called from Chief of Police, Foifua Foifua Jr.
The witness told jurors that TCF officers Toloa Koonwaiyou and Kuka re-secured Lefatia back inside his cell; and that he was instructed by these two officers to state that Lefatia was in his cell the entire time and that they had done a second headcount between 11p.m and 3 a.m.
According to Soliai’s testimony, he noted two specific occurrences that night that were not part of their routine shift.
First, Soliai stated that except for him, all of the five members of the shift including Lomu came in late. They arrived around 10:30 p.m.
Second, after their first headcount, Lomu instructed them to walk with him to the TCF main office to hang out there. This was unusual according to Soliai, because they (Soliai, Kuka and Koonwaiyou) would usually be in the field at that time — making sure the whole compound was safe and secure.
Instead, all of the five members of the shift were at the TCF main office, and they watched a movie using Viopapa Vitolio’s computer.
Vitolio, according to Soliai is the only female officer on their shift, and she was working at the office to answer the phone, escort female inmates and to keep a record of everything that happens during the shift in their log.
An inmate by the named Chico, who is a trustee joined the shift to watch the movie and everyone fell asleep in the office, Soliai told the jury.
It was around 3:30 a.m when Lomu woke them up and instructed them to check Lefatia’s cell, he said.
“He told us that he received a phone call from Foifua Jr that Lefatia allegedly escaped and shot a man in Leone. ‘Hurry up and check Lefatia’s cell to make sure he’s there’,” Soliai told jurors.
Kuka — the other government witness, echoed Soliai’s statements. He told jurors that before their shift starts, they always have a briefing from their leader (Lomu) before they head out to do their tasks.
However, he said, on that night, there was no briefing because everyone came in late, so, they went straight to conduct their first headcount around 11p.m and then Lomu invited them to come with him to the main office to watch a movie.
He explained he didn’t know what time he fell asleep while watching the movie, “but I was awakened by Lomu to check the Bravo unit,” Kuka recalled. A check was conducted of Lefatia’s cell by three TCF officers, Kuka, Soliai and Koonwaiyou and according to Kuka, Lefatia was not present.
Kuka said that while checking around the compound of the Alpha Unit, his supervisor, Koonwaiyou received a call from Lomu, their Watch Commander to stop their check of Alpha Unit and to return to the Bravo Unit to check for Lefatia again.
He stated that when they arrived, this time they found Lefatia inside the cell of another inmate by the name of Isumu. They then returned Lefatia to his cell.
Kuka also said that after several police officers from the Patrol Division arrived to see if the witness (Sopi) could identify the shooter, Lomu called a meeting in the main office of TCF and instructed all officers of the watch to “stick to the one story”, stating that the excuse for the delayed report to Chief Foifua about Lefatia’s whereabouts was due to them beginning their headcount from the furthest unit (Alpha).
He said that Lomu also instructed them to state that another headcount had taken place and Lefatia was present at the time.
Kuka further stated that as they were trying to fix the holes in the fence with Koonwaiyou, Lomu called Koonwaiyou and instructed them to go to Lefatia’s cell and inform Lefatia that officers were on their way to get him. After informing Lefatia about the incoming officers, a cellmate of Lefatia’s identified as Fagava’a handed over four cell phones.
THE TCF LOG
Another government witness called to the stand was Sgt. Devon Mata’u, who was the initial lead investigator for this matter, before the matter was transferred to the Vice & Narcotics Unit.
Mata’u told jurors that on Aug. 12, she and other officers went to the TCF to get the TCF log from the shift when the incident allegedly happened.
She said she first talked to Vitolio about the log, and Vitolio transferred her to Watch Commander, Lomu. When she asked Lomu about the log, Lomu referred her to the Warden. When she spoke to the Warden, he told her that he needed to discuss some matters with the Police Commissioner before he could release the log to her.
She then went to search Lefatia’s cell. According to Mata’u, Lomu gave her the authority to search Lefatia’s cell. During the search, they found clothes inside a laundry basket that allegedly matched the description of the clothing the person who allegedly shot Sopi Senio wore during the shooting.
The case resumes at 9am. today.