Man tests positive for meth while on probation for a deadly car crash
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — A Fono employee was arrested — again — earlier this month on the allegation that he failed to comply with conditions of his 5-year probation sentence which was handed down by the High Court four years ago.
Perenise Taala, who has been in custody since his arrest four weeks ago pursuant to an arrest warrant, appeared in High Court yesterday morning before Acting Associate Justice Elvis P. Patea for his preliminary examination.
He is represented by Assistant Public Defender Rob McNeill, while prosecuting the case is Assistant Attorney General Christy Dunn.
When Taala’s case was called, his attorney informed the court that his client admits to the allegation against him.
When asked by Patea, Taala said that on Oct. 29, 2018, when he came in for his monthly visits to the Probation Office, he took a drug test and it came up positive for meth.
He told the court that he smoked meth 3 days prior, due to a family faalavelave.
Patea wanted to know more about Taala's actions that day.
“I smoked ice so that I can gain strength to help out with my family function,” Taala explained.
According to the Probation Office, this was the same excuse Taala used when he tested positive for meth the first time — last year on Mar. 03, 2017.
Taala is remanded to custody without bail.
He is scheduled to appear in court next Friday, Dec. 7, 2018 for sentencing.
Court records note that on Mar. 03, 2017, Taala was ordered by the High Court to serve out the remaining 8 months of his prison term, although he was allowed to work during government working hours.
Taala was convicted of driving under the influence, causing death.
In October 2014 he was sentenced to 5 years imprisonment, but execution of the sentence was suspended and he was placed on 5 years probation, with several conditions, which included serving 20 months behind bars, paying $2,000 and attending and completing alcohol and drug counseling.
Taala, however, served only 12 months at the TCF before he was released and the court waived the remaining 8 months, as long as he continued to abide with all conditions of probation.
He was also subject to random alcohol and drug testing, and obligated to visit the Probation Office once a month.
It was during a Probation Office visit last year that Taala tested positive and he was taken into custody.
At his probation review hearing in March 2017, Taala apologized to the court and sought a chance to remain out of jail so he could be with his family. He promised he would not violate any more conditions of his probation.
Patea told Taala during that hearing that the court has not forgotten the seriousness of his crime, which caused the death of another person. But despite that, Patea gave Taala another chance at life with the sentence handed down at the time and then later waiving the remaining 8 months.
With the positive drug test, Patea said this clearly shows that Taala failed to abide with the court’s order to comply with all conditions of his probation; and then ordered Taala to serve out of the remaining 8 months in jail. However, he was allowed to be released for work purposes, Monday-Friday, from 7a.m to 4p.m, at the Fono, where he has been employed since 2008.
Taala was the driver of a vehicle that rammed into a utility pole in Pava’ia’i killing one of the passengers in September 2013.
In September 2014, he pled guilty to driving under the influence of alcohol causing the death of a person under a plea agreement with the government.
The other two felony charges were dismissed.