Repeat offender to serve 5 years in jail for forgery and resisting arrest

Judge notices his life of crime seems to have started when he became a ‘father’
ausage@samoanews.com

A 35-year-old man who was convicted of stealing checks from a businessman and forging his signature was sentenced yesterday to 5 years in jail. During sentencing the presiding judge pointed to his criminal record, which he says seems to have started about the time he became a father — Suauupaia Amituana’i has 6 children.

Amituana’i was initially charged in two separate cases.

In the first case, he was charged with stealing, forgery, and fraud — all felonies.

For the second case, Amituana'i was charged with attempted stealing and resisting arrest — also both felonies — and two misdemeanor charges of third degree assault.

However, under a plea agreement with the government, the defendant pled guilty to forgery, a class C felony, punishable by not more than 7 years imprisonment, and/or a fine of not more than $5,000 or both; and resisting arrest, a class D felony, punishable by not more than 5 years imprisonment, and/or a fine of not more than $5,000 or both.

During sentencing, Amituana’i apologized to the Court for his actions and begged for another chance to return home to care for his 6 children. He told the Court he understands how his children must feel, not having a father at home to care and provide for them. He promised that if given a chance, he would make sure he never appears before the Court again.

Defense attorney, Deputy Public Defender Michael White told the Court that he’s hoping this is a wake up call for the defendant, and he has learned his lesson, that living apart from his children is not a good thing for a father. White didn't ask for a detention period for his client but instead, he left it to the discretion of the Court.

Prosecutor Woodrow Pengelly said the defendant was given numerous chances, and it seems he’s not learning the lesson. He’s now telling the Court he loves and cares for his family dearly, but his actions put his family at risk, he said. As an example, Pengelly said Amituana’i went to the Office of Motor Vehicles (OMV) and attempted to change the ownership of one of the vehicles that was used in his criminal acts, while his wife was waiting inside the vehicle.

He said the defendant fled from police by driving off while his wife was inside, putting her life at risk. Pengelly asked to Court to sentence Amituana’i to 5 years in jail for each count.

After reviewing the Pre-Sentence Report prepared by the Probation Office, arguments from both attorneys, and the defendant’s plea mitigation, Acting Associate Justice Elvis P. Patea told Amituana’i the Court is aware that he was placed on probation 5 times — 3 times by the District Court and twice by the High Court, for cases including felony driving and revocation of his probation.

Patea told Amituana’i it appears from Court records that he only became involved in various criminal acts and came to know the Court system when he became a father. But during his youth years, he was never brought before the Court for any crime, and this is a matter that concerns the Court.

Patea told Amituana’i he would need to think deeply about what he will do when he is released from jail.

Amituana’i appeared in Court yesterday for two separate hearings — a deposition hearing for violating conditions of his probation, and sentencing for the two separate cases he pled guilty to.

For violating his probation, Amituana'i is ordered to serve the one-year jail term that was suspended by the Court back in 2014 when he was sentenced. For the crime of forgery, he was ordered to serve 5 years in prison, which is the same sentence he received for resisting arrest.

The sentences are to run concurrently, meaning they will be served at the same time.

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