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Taputimu drug defendant waives right to preliminary examination

[SN file photo]
Meanwhile, suspect Steve Tuatoo is still unaccounted for

A man who was arrested during one of the three raids by detectives of the DPS Vice & Narcotics Unit two weeks ago waived his right to a preliminary examination and his case is now bound over to the High Court.

Cody Wood, who is still in custody unable to post a $200,000 bond, appeared before Judge Fiti Sunia yesterday morning and that's when Assistant Public Defender, Ryan Nelson informed the court that Wood is no longer being represented by the PD's Office, as he has retained the services private attorney Joshua Rovelli, of RDA Law Firm.

When asked for a comment, Rovelli told Samoa News outside the District Court building that it was in the best interest of his client to waive his preliminary examination hearing yesterday, because there is sensitive information that needs to be protected from being leaked out to the media. When asked to elaborate, Rovelli said he hasn't had a chance to sit down with his client to discuss everything in the court affidavit before it is released to the media.

Wood is scheduled to appear in High Court tomorrow at 9 a.m. for arraignment.

Sources told Samoa News last week that the amount of cash that was confiscated by police during their raids at Wood’s house in Taputimu  two (2)weeks ago was more than $100,000, not the $54,003 as stated by police.

When asked for a comment, Rovelli said it's too early for him to comment on the issue, and he doesn't have an answer to the question, but he will get to the bottom of it when the time is right.

Samoa News asked the same question during last week’s press conference with DPS Deputy Commissioner, Falana’ipupu Taase Sagapolutele who said Samoa News only has information from sources — but he is revealing 'facts' about the raids — and this includes the exact dollar amount that was confiscated by police.

Wood is charged with several drug offenses including unlawful possession of a controlled substance — methamphetamine and marijuana; and unlawful possession of a controlled substance with the intent to distribute.

The other two men who were arrested during one of the three raids are Steve Tuatoo, a former cop, and Lemalie Taisia, a taxi driver.

Taisia, who is represented by Deputy Public Defender, Michael White, denied the single charge against him during his arraignment at the High Court last Friday.

He remains in custody, unable to post a $5,000 surety bond.

Taisia is charged with one count of unlawful possession of a control substance (methamphetamine) — a felony, punishable by imprisonment of not more than 5 years, and/or a fine of not more than $5,000 or both.

During arraignment, White asked the court to set Taisia’s pretrial conference within 45 days, and prosecutor, Robert Morris was okay with that. Chief Justice Michael Kruse asked Morris if the police report would be ready after a 45-day continuance, and Morris said he has to speak to the investigating officer, to see if the police report will be ready by that time.

Kruse laughed and said to Morris, “I’m not talking to you personally, I’m talking to you as the representative of the Administration.” Kruse said the court has received a number of motions for a continuance from the defense side, because police reports for several cases are not turned in on time.

The CJ then set Taisia’s pretrial conference within 60 days, instead of the requested 45 days, so the police report would be ready and the defense would have time to review the file.

Taisia’s next court appearance is Jan. 18, 2018

As for Steve Tuatoo, police are still trying to track him down.

Tuatoo was arrested following the police raids two weeks ago and he was detained for 48 hours at the Territorial Correctional Facility (TCF).

Sources tell Samoa News that DPS has reached out to neighboring Samoa for assistance in locating Tuatoo, and according to the former cop's movement profile, there is substantial evidence that he has left the island.

Samoa News understands that all three defendants (Tuatoo, Wood, and Taisia) were taken into custody following the raids in Taputimu, Alofau, and on the main road, and the men were detained for 48-hours.

However, only Tuatoo was released when the 48-hour holding period expired, while Wood and Taisia remained in custody at the TCF to await the filing of charges against them.

Efforts to obtain a comment from the Department of Public Safety yesterday were unsuccessful. Samoa News sought a comment via email from Police Commissioner, Le’i Sonny Thompson but there was no response at press time. The Attorney General’s Office continues to be silent on the issue too.