Youth in Juvie Detention case sentenced to “time already served”
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — One of the co-defendants in the Juvenile Detention Center (JDC) case who was convicted for threatening one of the government’s key witnesses and was also detained at the JDC was released from the Territorial Correctional Facility (TCF) last week, after the court sentenced him to time already served.
Aviu Titio was the youngest defendant in the case between the government and several police officers assigned to the JDC. He is 20 years old. Pursuant to a plea agreement with the government Titio pled guilty to tampering with a witness, a class D felony, punishable by a term of imprisonment of up to 5 years, or a fine of up to $5,000, or both.
Titio, who has been in custody since he was arrested in March 2017, admits that on June 8, 2016 while detained at the JDC, he threatened one of the government’s key witnesses who was also detained at the JCD, to stop her from saying anything to the police. He further admits that he threatened the witness by telling her that he would kill her and her family if she said anything to the police.
Titio appeared before the High Court last week for sentencing. He was represented by Acting Public Defender, Michael White while prosecuting the case was Assistant Attorney General, Christy Dunn.
When given the chance to speak, Titio apologized to the court, the government and the people of American Samoa for breaking the law. He also apologized to his parents, his village and church, especially to the victim and her family, asking them to please forgive him for what he did.
He then asked the court for a second chance so that he could go back home and take care of his parents, especially help out his father, who is the only person who is working in the family, because he and his two other brothers are all detained in prison.
“I understand that our parents really need us to come back home and help with the development of our family. It’s been 15 months since I was detained in prison and I’ve learnt a good lesson which I think will help me to become a better person in the future,” Titio said.
His attorney, White asked the court for a probated sentence, and to let the 15 months his client has already served in prison be his punishment in this case. White told the court that Titio is a young man who will be a good man in the future if he changes his old ways and changes his path.
Prosecutor, Dunn echoed the defense’s submission for a probated sentence saying that Titio is remorseful and has learned a lot from his mistake.
In delivering his decision, Chief Justice Michael Kruse stated that the defendant’s last name is “familiar to the court.”
Titio was then sentenced to a term of imprisonment of 5 years, execution of the sentence was suspended, and the defendant was placed on probation for 5 years under certain conditions.
He was ordered to serve a period of detention of 20 months. All but 15 months of detention was stay until further order of the court, which means, Titio was released from prison after he was sentenced last week.
He was ordered to seek and obtain gainful employment within 60 days. He was also ordered not to have a contact with the victim in this case.
Titio was among several young men and juveniles that were charged and convicted by the court for multiple break-ins between Nov. 2011 and Feb. 2012, where several businesses in the Industrial Park area were burglarized at night. According to court filings, Titio and his two brothers were among those young men and juveniles who were convicted for these crimes.
Titio was a detainee at the JDC, and was arrested along with four DPS officers assigned to the JDC last March.
The group was alleged to be involved in illegal activities that included soliciting money from the parents of JDC detainees saying they needed to buy necessities when they were allegedly using the money to buy drugs.
Other charges had to do with allegedly exposing detainees to pornographic videos, and locking juveniles in cells while they (the DPS officers) spent time with people who entered the compound.
The 4 DPS officers are: Okesene Alo, Alofagia Letuli and Olataga Wilson (whose cases are in High Court); and Junior Utuga whose case is still in District Court.
Letuli and Wilson entered into a plea deal with the government in April of this year. Letuli pled guilty to unlawful possession of a controlled substance, to wit; methamphetamine and aiding escape, both class D felonies; while Wilson pled guilty to unlawful possession of a controlled substance, to wit; methamphetamine and stealing, also felonies.
Alo was convicted by a jury in June of this year. Out of the 11 counts with which Alo was charged, the jury found him guilty of 7 counts. These counts include 3 counts of endangering the welfare of a child, all misdemeanors; 1 count of unlawful possession of a controlled substance, to wit; methamphetamine; 1 count of unlawful possession of a methamphetamine with the intent to distribute, and 2 counts of permitting escapes, all class D felonies.
The three defendants, Letuli, Wilson and Alo, are still in custody unable to post $100,000 surety bonds and will appear in court in September of this year for sentencing.