Underage nephew’s “drug” uncle ordered to leave island immediately
A 54-year-old uncle who was convicted by the High Court last month of providing drugs to his underage nephew who was a student at Tafuna High School during the time of this incident last year, was ordered by the court to depart the territory and to remain outside of its borders for the period of his probation — which is 10 years.
Galu Nofoa was initially charged together with a co-defendant, Iosefa Alo, a DOE school teacher. They were both charged with one felony count of unlawful distribution of a controlled substance, to wit; methamphetamine, punishable by a term of imprisonment of not more than twenty years and a fine of not more than $20,000, or both.
However, in a plea bargain with the government, which was accepted by the court early last month, Nofoa pled guilty to the single count of unlawful distribution of a controlled substance, to wit; methamphetamine as charged.
According to his plea of guilt, Nofoa admitted that on the night of Oct. 5, 2017 he gave his nephew some marijuana leaves to smoke.
The nephew, who was named in the court affidavit as “J.M.” went to school the next morning and took with him marijuana leaves that he had gotten from the defendant, and smoked the leaves on campus with another student, who was named in the court affidavit as “C.K”.
J.M. told police that his uncle Nofoa gave him 3 marijuana joints and after school on Oct. 6, 2017, he sold half of a marijuana joint to one of his friends at school, while another friend smoked the remaining half. He then gave the teacher, Alo the other 2 marijuana joints.
On the night of Oct. 6, 2017, Nofoa’s co-defendant Alo gave a glass pipe to C.K. loaded with ice and told him to sell it for $30 cash, or the marijuana joints in return for the ice inside the pipe.
When they arrived at school on the morning of Oct. 7, 2017, C.K. and J.M. smoked the glass pipe with ice behind the cafeteria. A security guard caught them later when they went to smoke a cigarette behind the school’s campus.
C.K. told police that when they were transported to the Tafuna Sub-Station, he saw his friend J.M. hide a marijuana joint in the rear pocket of the passenger seat. Police searched the unit and discovered a small clear baggie with one hand-rolled cigarette inside, along with a lighter and rolling papers.
When asked by police, J.M. stated that he bought marijuana joints from his uncle Nofoa, and it had been two weeks since he started selling marijuana joints at school because he needed money for his business math class. He further explained that he would get a handful of loose marijuana from his uncle, and he would then roll it into marijuana joints and sell it on campus to other students.
Nofoa admitted that he used to sell marijuana when he had a plant growing near his house in Futiga. He further admitted that he remembered giving his nephew J.M. marijuana joints a few times, when J.M. would come with money saying it was someone’s else money.
During his sentencing, Nofoa apologized to the court for his actions and requested a chance to go back home to care for his children and family.
His attorney, Public Defender Douglas Fiaui told the court that his client is a suitable candidate for a probated sentence, because he has no prior record, he quickly admitted to his crime, and he also feels remorse for what he did. With Nofo’a valid Immigration status, Fiaui asked the court to allow his client to remain in the territory and care for his family.
Prosecutor Christy Dunn on the other hand asked the court to order the defendant to depart the territory and remain outside of its borders for the period of his probation. Dunn said the seriousness the defendant’s action was he provided drugs to a minor.
Chief Justice Michael Kruse stated that the conviction against Nofoa pertains to the distribution of the controlled substance, an offense that is very serious to the Fono, which has provided the penalty of imprisonment of not more than twenty years and or a fine of not more than $20,000, or both.
He noted that the court has taken into account all the mitigating factors about the case, the defendant’s apology, counsels’ arguments and the fact that the defendant is a first offender.
“The other side of the scale as highlighted by the government is the fact that the victim was a minor, and the court by extension in looking at the facts provided to us by the Probation Office tells the story and a quick conclusion that the victims in this case are in fact school children,” Kruse said.
The court then sentenced Nofoa to a term of imprisonment of ten years and a fine of $5,000. Execution of sentence was suspended and the defendant was placed on probation for a period of ten years under certain conditions.
The defendant has to serve a period of detention of 40 months at the Territorial Correctional Facility (TCF) without release whatsoever, except for medical emergency or genuine orders of the court. However, execution of the period of detention is stayed and the defendant is ordered to immediately depart the territory and remain outside of its borders for the period of his probation.
The court orders that Nofoa be released to the Probation Office, and they’re responsible for transporting him to an exit point — the airport or the wharf.
Kruse also ordered that a copy of the court’s judgment and sentence be served to the Immigration Office, to make sure the defendant’s name be put on their “Lookout List”.
Chief Associate Judge Mamea Sala Jr. and Associate Judge Paeapae Iosefa Faiai assisted Kruse in handling down Nofoa’s sentence.