Three inmates plead guilty to escape from confinement
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The three inmates accused of escape from confinement in July of this year from the Territorial Correctional Facility (TCF) have pled guilty.
Andrew Peters, also known as Luao Fagota, Jason Isaiah Muasau and Vatia Tugaga appeared in High Court Thursday morning for their Change of Plea hearing. They were represented by Assistant Public Defender Ryan Anderson, while prosecuting the case was Assistant Attorney General Laura Garvey.
They were originally each charged with one count of escape from confinement, a class D felony. However, under a plea agreement with the government, all three defendants agreed to change their pleas to the count as they were each charge.
Upon his guilty plea, the 26-year-old Peters admits that on July 6, 2018 in American Samoa, he escaped from TCF while serving a sentence of 7 years, after being convicted by the High Court for stealing back in 2013.
For the case of the 32-year-old Muasau, and the case of 31-year-old Tugaga, upon their guilty pleas, they both admit that on July 6, 2018 in American Samoa, they escaped from TCF while each serving a sentence of 27 years, after being convicted by the High Court on the charge of 1st degree assault back in 2011.
According to the government, all three defendants escaped from TCF by cutting the fence that surrounds the compound, and headed to Pago Pago to buy beer for themselves and other inmates.
Chief Justice Michael Kruse informed all of the three defendants that their guilty pleas will come together with two consequences, if the court accept pleas.
First, they’re waiving their rights to a jury trial, and second, they cannot come back and tell the court that they have changed their minds.
One of the issues Kruse wanted to iron out during the three defendants’ hearing yesterday, was the full name for one of the defendant, Peters.
When Kruse asked the defendant about his full name, Peters stated that his full name is Andrew Peters Luao Fagota.
According to court record, which was based on the information the government provided when they first filed their case against Peters back in 2011, the defendant was only known by the name Andrew Peters.
“When police arrested you the first time for stealing, what name did you provide to them,” Kruse asked Peters.
The defendant replied, “It was Andrew Peters.”
According to the defendant, his full name which is on his travel document and birth certificate is Luao Fagota, the same name he used while attending school from elementary until he graduated from high school in 2011.
Kruse turned to the government’s attorney and stated, “I don’t know how the government has filed charges against people with wrong names.” He then ordered that defendant’s Peters file in the court system must amended to reflect his full name.
The court accepted the three defendants’ change of pleas. They’re scheduled to appear in court on Jan. 18, 2019 for sentencing.
Peters is currently serving time for two convictions — one in 2012 for stealing an iPhone belonging to a taxi driver, and then while on probation for this case; in 2014, he was once again convicted for stealing a case of beer from an Asian store in Pago Pago. For the second he was convicted of stealing and ordered to serve a straight sentence of 5 years, on top of also serving the two years left on his probation from the first conviction.
Muasau and Tugaga are each serving 27-year sentences — since 2011 — for assaulting a man in his 70s while he was sleeping onboard his yacht. The court convicted Muasau and Tugaga of 1st degree assault, a class A felony.