Man who gave weed to high school student is given another chance at life
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The 29-year-old man who was convicted of giving marijuana joints to his underage cousin last year was released from the Territorial Correctional Facility (TCF) yesterday, after the court sentenced him to time served.
Molieletise Salu appeared before Acting Associate Justice Elvis P. Patea for sentencing. He was represented by Public Defender Michael White, while prosecuting the case was Assistant Attorney General Christy Dunn.
Salu’s sentencing was continued from Nov. 27, 2018 to yesterday morning, after Patea issued an Order to Show Cause (OSC) for Attorney General Talauega Elesalo Ale, and Chief Immigration Officer (CIO) Peseta D. Fuimaono to appear in court, for failure to comply with a court order.
The OSC was issued after no report from the Immigration Office regarding Salu's immigration status was produced. The court was informed that an order was sent to the Immigration Office requesting Salu's file but the Probation Office never received a response from Immigration.
Neither Talauega nor Peseta was present when Salu’s case was called in court yesterday. Before Salu was given the chance to address the court, Patea briefed both attorneys regarding the issue with the AG and the CIO.
According to Patea, it was four hours after the court issued its verbal OSC order for the AG and the CIO to appear in court that the court clerk received a file from the Immigration Office, containing everything regarding Salu’s immigration status.
That's when the court decided not to issue a written OSC order for Talauega and Peseta.
“We feel that if we call the two senior government officials to the stand, they will tell the court that their junior officers did not do their job,” Patea said.
Salu was originally charged with one count of unlawful possession of marijuana with the intent to distribute, a felony punishable by not less than five or more than ten years in jail, and a fine of not less than $5,000 or more than $20,000, or both.
However, in a plea agreement with the government last month, Salu pled guilty to aiding and abetting another person to unlawfully possess a controlled substance (marijuana), a class D felony, punishable by up to five years in jail, a fine of up to $5,000, or both.
With his guilty plea, Salu admits that on Nov. 1, 2017 he gave 4 marijuana joints to a Fagaitua HS student.
When given the chance to address the court, Salu apologized and immediately begged for a second chance so he can return home and care for his family. He also apologized to his village, church, and his parents for disobeying them.
While in custody for over a year, Salu said he became truly remorseful and just wanted to go back home.
“This was my first time in prison and I know this is not the right place for me. I learned my lesson and… I will never do this again. I want to change my life and go back home to make use of my life for my family," Salu said.
Salu’s aunty, who claims she raised him when he was a child, testified that Salu is a good person who never got in trouble before. She said he's helped her family in many ways and he’s a hard working man.
According to the Pre Sentence Report, Salu was born and raised in Samoa by his parents. He came to American Samoa in 2012 and lived with his aunty in Amouli.
He holds an immigration status of P1, which expired April 24, 2017.
Attorneys from both sides asked the court to follow the PSR, which recommended 5 years probation.
In delivering the sentence, Patea said Salu was a good young man who lived with his aunt and was obedient; however, Patea continued, "what you did was not only careless, it was stupid. You almost jeopardized your cousin’s future. You taught him how to become a drug dealer.”
Patea told Salu he was initially charged with a crime that could've sent him to the TCF for a maximum of 20 years; but under a plea agreement, he received a huge break.
Patea sentenced Salu to 5 years probation on the condition that he serve 20 months at the TCF without release, and he will be credited for time served — which is over 12 months. The remaining 8 months will be stayed based on his good behavior.
With that, Salu was ordered to be released yesterday.
Upon release, he has to immediately depart the territory and stay away for the remaining period of probation. However, the court stayed that condition, based on Salu’s good behavior.
“You’re not going to depart the territory and go back to Samoa; however, if you fail to comply with conditions of your probation, the court will revisit this condition in the future. So, don’t take advantage of the many chances you have — but use them,” Patea told Salu, who was also ordered to pay a $1,000 fine, remain alcohol and drug free, and attend and complete substance abuse counseling.
Salu was arrested after police were notified by a Fagaitua HS staffer who alleged that students were caught by the school janitor smoking marijuana on campus.
When questioned by police, one of the students said the marijuana was from a guy named “Ruben Finau”.
The student claimed that Finau always gave him free weed in exchange for selling his marijuana to the public for $5 a joint. The same student told police he also sells marijuana joints for a man named “Tee”.
When confronted by police, Finau said Salu gave him the marijuana joints to give to one of the students.
During questioning, Salu told police he received the marijuana from a man named Spunky. He added that he sold the marijuana joints to some of his friends, and gave one of the students four marijuana joints for free.