Medical expert: Public Defender’s Office never paid for her work

She assisted in the defense of a man charged with murder of his wife

It would seem the financial woes of American Samoa are pervasive — affecting all areas of government, including the Public Defender’s Office. And while a shortage of lawyers is its oft complaint, this time, a complaint is being made against the Public Defender’s Office for not paying the bill of a consultant it used to assist in the defense of a local man who was charged with the murder of his wife.

Samoa News was recently contacted by an off-island medical expert, Tara M Godoy, BSN, RN, LNC, who says the local Public Defender’s Office never paid for her work — to review and report on discovery submitted for the case of Mataupu Mamona, a father that was tried for the murder of his wife that his 9-year-old son claimed he witnessed. 

Godoy is a Forensic and Legal Nurse Consultant, who met Douglas Fiaui, who is head of the local PD Office, at a conference in Las Vegas in early 2016, where she had given a presentation on strangulation. She told Samoa News her “areas of expertise include strangulation, blunt force trauma, and general medical record review and analysis.”

She said, “I followed up with Mr. Fiaui after the conference and at that time he indicated he had a case he wanted me to assist him on.

“On October 19, 2016, I was provided discovery on the case and Mr. Fiaui submitted information on my website, including checking a box that acknowledges the following statement: 'By checking here, you acknowledge the risks of not receiving the report and agree to pay in full as long as reasonable efforts have been made to ensure delivery'."

Continued contact happened, Godoy says, and on Dec. 19, 2016, Fiaui requested the invoice be sent right away for payment.

She said, “I gave him my opinions on the case. He requested further work to assist him with his defense.

“On December 29th, we provided the work product he had requested.

“On January 5th, 2017, we contacted him to confirm receipt of the work product and to inquire about the unpaid invoices. He responded with:

“Hi Tara,

I am in receipt of the questions. And the two invoices have been submitted.

I will be meeting with several of the doctors and nurses toward the end of next week, and will let you know how things go with the questions.

Thanks”

The Mataupu Mamona case went to trial on January 24th of this year, and according to Godoy, contact with Public Defender Fiaui has not happened since January 5, 2017, despite multiple attempts to reach him by both phone and email.

Godoy has not been paid for her work to date, and said, “We have contacted him at least once a month and at times once a week. When I called, I would reach his staff and they would indicate that they ‘told him to pay it’.”

Efforts by Samoa News to reach Fiaui for comment about the unpaid consultancy bill and the affect this has on his office’s resources have remained unsuccessful.

Samoa News should point out that the Mamona was not found guilty for the murder of his wife, however, he was convicted of first degree assault, public peace disturbance, and false reporting. He was sentenced in April of this year.

BACKGROUND

The Mamona case went to a jury trial that began on Jan. 24, 2017 on which Samoa News reported extensively. Mamona was facing charges of second-degree murder, assault in the first degree, making false reports, and two counts of private peace disturbance.

The police initially ruled the case — the death of Mamona’s wife —  an attempted suicide and the family proceeded with the funeral.

However, new information surfaced afterwards, which led to the arrest of Mamona in April of last year. The new information involved the testimony of Mamona’s nine-year old son, who said he saw his father allegedly ‘kill’ his mother, by tying a rope around her neck.

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