Pretrial conference continued in case of police car shoot up
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Chief Justice Michael Kruse has continued the pretrial conference for the young man who is accused of shooting at a police vehicle last December, until his defense attorney files a motion to the court to set a deadline for the government to present discovery.
Thomas Siaumau appeared in High Court last week for his pretrial conference (PTC). He is represented by private attorney Richard deSaulles of RDA Law Firm, while prosecuting the case is Assistant Attorney General Woodrow Pengelly.
When the case was called, Pengelly said the court continued the case from the last PTC, because the government is still awaiting for the evidence to be returned from the DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) lab in California, where the evidence is being reviewed and analyzed for testing.
Pengelly told the court that according to the communication he received from the DEA representatives off island, they have received the evidence for Siaumau’s case, and will return it after testing. He then asked the court for another brief continuance to await the returning of the evidence from off island.
The defense attorney opposed the motion for a continuance.
deSaulles said they made their formal request for discovery back in January of this year, and since then, they are only receiving words from the government, but not a single piece of discovery.
He told the court that what they heard from the government is that the evidence is being reviewed and readied for testing.
“My client is charged by the government with a class A felony along with several felony charges. Up until now, we haven’t received a single piece of evidence nor a police report,” deSaulles stated.
Furthermore, the defense attorney said the basis of his client being arrested was on the testimony of 5 witnesses including juveniles, and up until now, they haven’t received a police report nor have the witnesses been named.
If the court is going to grant the government’s motion for a continuance, deSaulles asked the court to set a deadline for the government to present all the discovery, including the police report.
He said they don’t want to hear another word from the government, about the evidence being reviewed and later returned on island.
Kruse told the defense attorney they need to file something in court before the court will consider what the next move will be. The CJ also instructed the government’s attorney that they need to come prepared to the next hearing if by that time, they still don’t have the evidence from off island.
Pengelly asked the court for a chance to respond to the defense’s motion it was denied by Kruse who said the government has to wait until the defense’s motion is filed with the court.
According to the government, they will continue to withhold the names of their witnesses until they receive the results of the DEA analysis.
During another hearing on this case on May 8, 2018, Kruse took under advisement a motion by the government asking the court to delay until trial, the disclosure of the identity of all government witnesses in Siaumau’s case.
During a hearing on the government’s motion for a Protective Order, Pengelly said the government is concerned about the safety of the witnesses, and their identities should be kept under wraps until trial date.
Pengelly argued that the government is fully aware of the defendant’s constitutional right to identify witnesses in his case; however, there are certain criminal cases where the court has ruled that the defendant cannot access the government’s witnesses until the day of trial.
“The government is seeking this motion based on the defendant’s criminal history. The government also believes that under Rule 16 of criminal procedure, we are allowed to delay the disclosure of the identities of witnesses,” he argued.
He added that the government would not oppose if the defense asks to release the identity of the witnesses one week before the case goes to trial.
Pengelly said it’s the government's duty to ensure the identities of witnesses helping the government prove its case are well protected.