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New IP asks to have status hearing for holdover cases

Associate Justice Lyle L Richmond, accompanied on the bench by Associate Judge Mamea Sala Jr., has rescheduled a status hearing in 30 days after discussions with the newly appointed Independent Prosecutor Marcellus Tala Uiagalelei and David Vargas pertaining to the IP cases of Filifa’atali Mike Fuiava, the former Deputy Police Commissioner, and Marie Ripley, former Manager of the Office of Motor Vehicle, as well as former director of Department of Human Social Services and current Vice Speaker of the House Talia Fa’afetai I’aulualo.

This is the first time IP Uiagalelei has sat in on the IP cases.

Ripley is charged in connection with the issuance of a forged driver’s license for a Tongan national, and faces counts of forgery, possession of a forging instrument, and public servant acceding to corruption.

Filifa’atali is charged with tampering with physical evidence and hindering prosecution.

It’s alleged that Ripley prepared and issued a driver’s license to a Tongan citizen, Rosemarie Rose Huni, using a Social Security number that belonged to another person. The charges filed against Fuiava allege that he attempted to stop officers from investigating the case regarding the fake driver’s license.

I’aulualo is facing three counts of embezzlement, for a crime he allegedly committed about four years ago when he was director of DHSS.

Representing Mrs. Ripley is David Vargas who was the only defense lawyer present at the hearing. Sharron Rancourt, attorney for Filifa’atali and Talia has traveled off island and was not present at the hearing.

Uiagalelei told the court on Wednesday that after receiving the files, he moved to have a status hearing on this matter given there are issues that— since his appointment as IP— have yet to be addressed.

“I’d like to get some matters onto the record,” said Uiagalelei, adding that these cases have been lingering on for several years and should be moved along.

He wanted to know “if counsels are looking at filing motions disqualifying me, given my familial relationship with your honor (Associate Justice Lyle Richmond) who is presiding in all these cases.”

“I’d like to get that out of the way” he stated.

“I’m already getting into preparation for whatever and however this case is to proceed and I’d like counselors to bring that into the record,” said Uiagalelei.

Vargas said he has yet to have the opportunity to discuss any issues with his client, given that she is currently off island. Uiagalelei asked if there were any pending motions with the court, and if so, what is the status of those motions.

Vargas noted that he didn’t have any motions, and he was not aware of any motions filed by Rancourt. Richmond agreed that there are no pending motions with the court in these matters.

Uiagalelei added he didn’t know if the discovery material that he has is the same that was given to the defense lawyers by former IP Fa’amomoi Masaniai.

He said that he is willing to open up files for the defense at his office.

Following discussion Richmond scheduled another status hearing, and if the disqualify motion exists; it will be addressed on July 12, 2012.