Man who gave marijuana joints to students, seeks jury trial
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The man who is accused of giving students marijuana to sell for him has asked the High Court to set his case for jury trial. The trial is now set for March 2019.
Tavita Mariota appeared in court last Friday for his pretrial conference. He was represented by Public Defender, Michael White while prosecuting the case was Assistant Attorney General, Woodrow Pengelly.
When Mariota’s case was called, his attorney informed the court that they have received all the discovery from the government along with an offer for a plea agreement, however, after speaking with his client regarding the facts of the case, his client has maintained his not guilty plea.
“For these reasons, we’re asked the court to set this case for a jury trial,” White told the court.
Acting Associate Justice, Elvis P. Patea asked Mariota whether he understands what his attorney has just told the court, the defendant replied, “Yes your honor.”
Mariota is still in custody awaiting his jury trial next year unable to post a surety bond of $10,000.
High school students caught smoking marijuana on campus led to the arrest of Mariota after students told investigators he gave them marijuana to sell in school.
He’s being charged with one count of unlawful possession of a controlled substance, to wit; marijuana with the intent to distribute, a felony punishable by a term of imprisonment of not less than five years and not more than ten years, or a fine of not less than $5,000 and not more than $20,000, and one count of endangering the welfare of a child, a class A misdemeanor, punishable by a term of imprisonment of up to one year, and a fine of up to $1,000, or both.
Detectives of the DPS Vice & Narcotics Unit received a call from a staffer at Tafuna High School alleging that students were caught by the school security smoking marijuana on campus. Responding to the call, they met with the staff member who notified officials, along with the students who allegedly smoked marijuana on campus.
When questioned by detectives, one of the students told police that the marijuana they were smoking came from a guy named “Tee”. Tee was later identified as Tavita Mariota, who is the defendant in this matter. The student further told police that Mariota always gives him free marijuana in exchange for selling his marijuana for $5 a joint to the public. He also told police that he sells marijuana joints from another man by the name of “Deuce”, aka Lewis Lokeni.