Wood asks for reduction of bail to look after his ill mother
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The High Court has taken under advisement a motion filed by the attorney representing a drug defendant, asking the court for a reduction in bail, last Friday.
Joshua Revelli from the RDA Law Firm represents Cody Wood, while Assistant Attorney General Christy Dunn represents the government.
Wood’s bail set by the District court is $200,000 and according to Revelli his client and family have been unable to come up with the amount, and asked the court to reduce bail to either $5,000 or a reasonable amount — less than $200,000.
In supporting his client’s motion, Revelli said that despite the fact his client has been charged with a very serious offense, he wanted the court to know that this is Mr. Wood’s first criminal offense in his life.
“This is a guy that has not had a traffic ticket for many years of his life, nor is he a danger to the community,” Revelli said.
Chief Justice Michael Kruse quickly asked the defense attorney to define what he meant “not a danger to the community.” Revelli responded that he’s referring “in terms of violence.”
The defense said he expects the government will disagree with his argument because they feel that they charged his client with unlawful possession of a firearm. However, he pointed out to the court that his client is not charged with unlawful use of a weapon, in fact — he’s being charged with possession of an unlicensed handgun.
“He’s not being charged with any violent crime. He’s being charge with unlawful possession of controlled substances — so he’s not a danger to the community nor has he ever physically harmed anyone,” Revelli said.
He argued that if there is a concern from the court in regards to his client being a danger to the society, Mr. Wood has agreed to waive his 4th amendment right and allow a search of his property by any officers at anytime to make sure that he’s not in possession of any contraband,” the defense attorney said.
“Wood is not a flight risk,” argued his attorney. “He has a 70-year-old mother he has to take good care of her, and that’s is the reason why he’s asking for a reduction on bond, so that he can make sure he has time to take care of her and also make himself available for his trial.”
According to the defense counsel, his client’s mother is totally disabled and she needs her son everyday to assist her. Wood’s primary task has been to take care of his mother. When he was arrested, another family member stepped in and is taking care of his mother, but that family member has left island.
“ ... For all these reasons, we’re asking for a $5,000 bond, and if that’s too low for the court, then we’re asking for something that is affordable for him,” said Revelli.
Kruse told the defense attorney, “You need to be realistic counsel. This is not a contractor’s negotiation. I asked how you define danger and you talk about violence.
“The court’s concern is that, there was a teacher who was a dealer, and when he was out for early probation, he then went out again dealing. That’s the aspect of danger you also need to address.”
“I’m bound by the Fono’s level of the definition of the seriousness of drugs. We still have that old initial drug law that talks about how serious drug offenses are. Now you come here and ask under … emotion … about a sick mother, be realistic.”
In response, Revelli said that he was under the impression from a November court memorandum that the court will consider those sort of mitigating factors like the wavier of the 4th amendment right to search property, random [drug] testing and random search to ensure that he wasn’t going back to dealing.
(The Fourth Amendment (Amendment IV) to the United States Constitution prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures and requires any search warrant to be judicially sanctioned and supported by probable cause. It is part of the Bill of Rights.)
“Here’s my problem”, Kruse said. “Do you see my chaplain over here,” pointing to the court interpreter sitting in front of the Judges Bench with other court staff. “He doubles as a probation officer and he doesn’t have time to go out and monitor people. [We have limited] resources and you’re putting the burden on us.”
When asked for the government’s position, Dunn said, “The government’s position is that the affidavit of support stated that at the time Mr. Wood was arrested and a search warrant executed to search his home at Taputimu, DPS seized $50,000 in cash, and methamphetamine and marijuana — with a street value approximately over $100,000.
“Not only has he been charged with unlawful possession but also charged in possession of a weapon, but mostly possession with the intent to distribute. The government feels that because of the combination of dealing drugs with weapons, it makes it one of the most dangerous crimes on island.”
With regards to the defense’s argument that the defendant is not a flight risk, Dunn pointed out that Mr. Wood’s co-defendant has already fled the island. And for that reason, the government feels that there is nothing to prevent the defendant from taking his sick mother with him if he wishes to flee the island.
Dunn also pointed out to the court that at the time of the defendant’s arrest, a family member had stepped up to take care of his sick mother. The government believes an arrangement can be made inside the extended family, for another member to step up to take care of the defendant’s sick mother.
“The government believes that Mr. Wood is not only a danger to the community but also a flight risk. And for those reasons, we ask the court to leave the bond as it is,” she concluded.
Wood is still in custody awaiting a decision from the High Court in regards to his motion.
In the meantime, another co-defendant in the case, Taisia Lemalie, who is charged with one count of unlawful possession of a controlled substance, to wit; marijuana, is still in custody unable to post his $5,000 surety bond.
During his pretrial conference hearing last week, Lemalie’s attorney, Public Defendant Douglas Fiaui acknowledged receiving discovery from the government. He asked the court to set the matter for trial, after they were unable to reach an agreement with the government. The trial is set for April 2020.
The third defendant in this case is still at large, and Police Commissioner Le’i Sonny Thompson confirmed to Samoa News last week that they’re still searching for Steve Tuatoo.
Tuatoo, a former cop was arrested following the raids in November, however he was released from jail pending charges; and immediately left the territory. DPS has received reports that Tuatoo was seen in Seattle, Washington around November of last year.
Kruse was assisted by Associate Judges Faamausili Pomele and Muasau T. Tofili on the bench.