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Man gets 5 years probation for drug possession

[SN file photo]
Hearing reveals continuing lack of drug rehab program on island

Chief Justice Michael Kruse had a strong message last Friday during the sentencing of a 24-year-old man, convicted of violating local drug laws.

According to Kruse, a lot of young people in the territory now-a-days are taking lightly the many opportunities they have, wasting most of their time doing useless things rather than utilizing it to better themselves.

Before delivering his decision on the case of Wayne “Ueni” Gasolo, the Chief Jus-tice said it has become common practice for many young people who come before the court for sentencing, to ask for another chance to return home, with promises to change their lives and do things like care for their parents and further their educa­tion. “I can see that there are too many opportunities for young people of this territory, and talking about this man (Gasolo) being an intelligent person, I don’t know what to say but ask why he didn’t graduate from school - he has a US passport and he can go to the military to support his family or do some­thing good for himself instead of wasting his life behind bars”, said Kruse. He referred to Loimata Mika, who entered the territory on a 7-day permit in search of a job but ended up pleading guilty to second-degree burglary and thereafter sen­tenced to 28 months incarcera­tion. Mika believed there was a job for him when he entered the territory on a 7-day permit; and when he did not find a job, he broke in to a home with the purpose of committing a crime, which resulted in a young lady screaming for her life and resulted in Mika being detained at the TCF, Kruse pointed out.

Gasolo was initially charged with one count of unlawful possession of a controlled sub­stance - methamphetamine, a felony punishable by not less than 5 years imprisonment, or a fine of not less than $5,000 - or both. However, under a plea agreement with the gov­ernment, which was accepted by the Court in June, the defendant pled guilty to the amended lesser felony charge of unlawful drug possession.

With his guilty plea, the defendant admits that sometime last September, he was in pos­session of a pipe that is used to smoke methamphetamine, and a straw that had meth sub­stance inside. Gasolo has been in custody since his arrest last September, unable to post bond of$10,000 Based on court docu­ments, Gasolo and another man were arrested at a vacant house which was unlawfully occu­pied by the owner’s male rela­tive, who allegedly told young teenage girls they had to have sex with other men in exchange for drugs and money. During his sentencing, Gasolo apolo­gized to the court for his actions and begged for a second chance to return home to care for his parents and serve his family. “I feel I made a mistake and I am truly remorseful for what I did. I ask the court to please forgive me,” said Gasolo. When Kruse asked Gasolo what his mistake was, the defendant replied, “my crime.” “What was your crime?” Kruse asked, to which Gasolo replied, “unlawful pos­session of drugs”.

Gasolo continued, “Please give me a chance to change my life and be a better person. I will never deal with drugs any­more nor will I violate any laws of this territory, but I will use the remaining days of my life wisely, to do good things for my family and for the community.”

Gasolo’s attorney, Public Defender Douglas Fiaui asked the court to uphold the Proba­tion Office’s recommendation for a probated sentence for his client, to give him another chance to get his life together and get a job to support his par­ents and family.

Fiaui stated that after spending more than eleven months behind bars, Gasolo has learned a lesson, he has real­ized that prison is not a good place for him, and he needs to move on with his life. He will also attend and complete drug counseling. Assistant Attorney General Robert Morris sup­ported Fiaui’s argument, saying the government believes Gasolo is a suitable candidate for a probated sentence, and the court will manage his probation which will give him time to change his life and address his drug problem.

When Morris said the defendant needed to attend drug counseling, Kruse immediately asked him if there is such a service available on island for Gasolo and Morris replied, “Not that I know, Your Honor.” “Is there a door he can walk in to and ask for help?” Kruse asked Morris, who replied “no.” “I used to say that immigrants was the major industry on island but it seems that it’s now drugs that enter the territory”, said Kruse before heading back to the deliberating room with his Associate Judges Fa’amausili Pomele and Muasau T. Tofili to decide Gasolo’s fate.

Kruse informed the court that the defendant is a young man who is convicted of vio­lating drug laws and he was arrested by police, along with another individual, at an aban­doned house behind Cost-U-Less in Tafuna, where police say the defendant drug-fed young girls and engaged them in sexual activity.

This young man has a his­tory of drug and alcohol abuse, as per cases filed in the Dis­trict Court, and this is his first appearance in the High Court, said Kruse. Gasolo was sen­tenced to five years in jail and ordered to pay a $5,000 fine; however, the execution of the sentence was suspended and the defendant is placed on five years probation on the condi­tion that he serves 20 months at the TCF, not possess any illegal drugs or consume any alcohol, and he is subject to random drug and alcohol testing which, according to Kruse, will be con­ducted when Gasolo is released from jail, and during his deten­tion period, “because I’m not sure about the facility, whether it’s drug free or not.” Additionally, Gasolo shall not be eligible for ‘trustee’ status at the TCF.

He is also banned from entering any bars, taverns or businesses that sell alcohol, and he is not to congregate with people who are dealing illegal drugs or consuming alcohol.