Man pleads guilty to promoting prostitution and gets 28 months jail time

He told the court he's not a bad person
ausage@samoanews.com

The 45-year-old man from Samoa who was convicted of promoting prostitution told the High Court last week he believes he’s not a bad person.

John Tuupo was ordered to serve 28 months at the Territorial Correctional Facility (TCF) as a condition of his 7-year probation.

Tuupo was initially charged with aiding and abetting, unlawful possession of a controlled substance (methamphetamine), promoting prostitution, and sexual abuse in the first degree.

However, under a plea agreement with the government, Tuupo pled guilty to promoting prostitution in the second degree — a class C felony, punishable by not more than 7 years imprisonment, and/or a fine of not more than $5,000 or both.

During sentencing, Tuupo apologized and asked for forgiveness. He also said he's not a bad person, as he has been living in American Samoa for many years as a law abiding citizen.

He said things changed when his father passed away in 2013, that's when he realized there was nobody to look after the family, to fulfill his father's obligations.

Tuupo told the court he turned to drugs and that's how he ended up in prison. “I want to change my life. I’m not perfect, but I will do my best,” Tuupo told the Court, adding that he didn't know the girls involved in the case, they just approached him one day and said they had been kicked out of their homes and needed a place to sleep.

Tuupo said he took the girls to his house and allowed them to sleep there.

“All of a sudden, when the police showed up, the girls turned around and gave police wrong information about me. They are liars, and they are not good girls. They want to make me look bad, even after I showed them love and care,” Tuupo continued.

He begged the Court for another chance so he can return home to care for his elderly mother, who is arriving from the US this week. After spending 14 months in jail, Tuupo said he has learned his lesson and wants to move on with his life.

His attorney, Public Defender, Douglas Fiaui said his client has admitted to the Probation Office and also to police that he used drugs. Fiaui said methamphetamine is a powerful drug that makes people give up everything in order to get it.

He asked the Court to allow his client to depart the territory and remain outside of American Samoa, due to his illegal immigration status. Tuupo's ID expired earlier this year in March.

Prosecutor Robert Morris did not oppose the defense request for a probated sentence and said while the government is sticking to terms of the plea agreement, he feels the Court needs to look at the specifics of the defendant’s case, where he promoted prostitution by engaging young girls in sexual activity in exchange for methamphetamine. He asked the Court to order the defendant to depart the territory when he is released from jail, to protect the young people of American Samoa.

Chief Justice Michael Kruse sentenced Tu’upo to 7 years imprisonment; however, the sentence is suspended and he is placed on probation for 7 years on several conditions, which include him serving 28 months at the TCF without any release.

Tuupo is not illegible for "trustee status" at the TCF, and he is to remain drug and alcohol free.

Upon release from jail, Tu’upo is ordered to leave the territory and remain outside of American Samoa for the duration of his probation term.

Kruse ordered the prosecutor to have a copy of the Court’s order served to the Chief Immigration Officer, and the name of the defendant must be included on the "Lookout List."

THE CASE

A woman’s complaints about people using her abandoned home in Tafuna to hang out led to the arrest of Tu’upo and two co-defendants, Ioane Sakapo and Wayne Gasolo, last September.

The government’s case was based on what police found at the abandoned home after the homeowner filed a complaint about loud music, cars driving in and out at night, and young girls hanging around the area.

The homeowner told police that her relative, John Tu’upo, was using the house but he had no right to be there. Court filings say a white pick up truck was leaving the site as police arrived, and the driver was one of the co-defendants, Iakopo, also known as Inky.

Police searched the abandoned house and found drugs, guns, and paraphernalia including two plastic baggies and two glass pipes — both with crystalline residue.

Both Iakopo and Gasolo have been convicted and are serving time for charges from the same case.

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