Plea agreement in Toala drug case accepted by the court
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — A man who was charged with unlawful possession of methamphetamine after police stopped his vehicle and allegedly found a bag containing 8g of a white crystalline substance and drug paraphernalia has admitted to the charges against him.
Suilefaiga Toala appeared in High Court yesterday morning for a change of plea hearing. He is represented by private attorney Marcellus T. Uiagalelei, while prosecuting the case is Assistant Attorney General, Jason Mitchell.
During court proceedings, Uiagalelei asked for a chance to approach the bench and Acting Associate Judge, Elvis P. Patea granted the request. According to Uiagalelei, his client had a special request. Attorneys from both sides engaged in a closed discussion with the judge and a brief recess was called.
When court reconvened, a plea agreement was read aloud.
Uiagalelei declined to go into details when Samoa News approached him outside the courthouse to ask about his client’s special request.
He only said, “I can’t reveal my client’s special request. He told me not to discuss the subject with anybody.” Samoa News understands that Toala, through his defense attorney, requested closed door proceedings for his plea agreement.
It is unclear what information Toala wanted to share with the court in the absence of the media.
However, one of the questions that remains from the case is who owns the bag that contained the 8g of crystalline substance that was discovered under the passenger seat, when the vehicle was pulled over by police. In the court affidavit, Toala is said to have ‘shrugged his shoulders’ when asked if he owned it — seeming to indicate he didn’t know.
Before the plea agreement with the government, Toala, 38, from Nu’uuli was charged with unlawful possession of a controlled substance (methamphetamine) with intent to distribute; and unlawful possession of a controlled substance (methamphetamine) — both felonies.
Under the plea agreement, which was accepted by the High Court yesterday, Toala pled guilty to the amended charge of unlawful possession of a controlled substance, to wit; methamphetamine.
With his guilty plea, Toala admits that on May 16, 2018, while driving on the public highway, he was in possession of meth.
Toala, who remains in custody unable to post a $20,000 bond, is scheduled for sentencing on Oct. 15, 2018.
When his vehicle was stopped by police earlier this year in May, Toala was with two other men: Foketi Misi Siua and Pio Atonio.
Atonio was arrested a week later and charged with unlawful possession of methamphetamine, after police allegedly discovered drugs inside another vehicle, which he was driving. In June of this year, Siua was arrested and charged with unlawful possession of methamphetamine, after police executed a search warrant at his Petesa home.
When police asked Toala who owned the bag that contained the 8g of methamphetamine, Toala smiled and shrugged his shoulders as if indicating that he didn't know.
The government claims the bag was found under the passenger seat, where Siua was sitting when the vehicle was pulled over.
Siua told police he caught a ride with Toala in Iliili and he knows nothing about the bag because he didn’t have a bag with him.
During a body search, a clear ziplock baggie with a small amount of white crystalline substance allegedly fell from Toala's pocket.
During a second search of the vehicle, police discovered a glass pipe in the back seat of Toala’s vehicle.
When asked about it, Toala allegedly responded, “o le paipa” (it’s a pipe) — it was loaded with a white crystalline substance.
The crystalline substances found inside the glass pipe; the clear small baggie that was inside Toala’s pocket, and the ziploc baggie — all tested positive for ‘ice’.
Toala told police that before he was stopped, he was on his way to Vaitogi to drop off his brother’s daughter. It was on his way back that he picked up Siua and Pio in Vaitogi, but he didn’t see Siua with a bag.
Evidence collected from Toala's vehicle included a Ziploc baggie containing 8g of a white crystalline substance; a glass pipe — commonly used to smoke ice — containing a crystalline substance; a small ziploc baggie containing crystalline substance, and various drug paraphernalia such as a digital scale, several ziploc plastic baggies; 19 Q-Tips; one jumbo cut-up straw, one electric tape, and one large cut up straw commonly used to scoop ice.