SIVANILA TAUINAOLA —
A citizen of Samoa who has appeared in court six times for various crimes, has been sentenced to 20 months in prison for his latest conviction on drug possession.
The jail term for Sivanila Tauinaola, who was sentenced late last week in High Court, is among the conditions of his 5-year probation, for unlawful possession of marijuana — a felony. Upon serving his jail term, the court ordered that Tauinaola depart the territory and remain outside of American Samoa during the rest of his probation period.
The drug possession charge against the defendant stems from an incident last April when he was taken into custody for disturbing the peace while he was intoxicated, whereby police found a marijuana cigarette in his clothes during a body search.
During sentencing last week, the defendant apologized for his crime and requested leniency that would allow him to stay out of jail and find a job to help his parents. He said he is remorseful and this was echoed by his attorney Public Defender Douglas Fiaui.
Assistant Attorney General Kristy Dunn said the government has no argument on a sentence for the defendant and left it up to the court’s discretion.
The statement prompted Chief Justice Michael Kruse to ask if the government is not concerned with the many times the defendant has been charged and convicted in court, because he was intoxicated and disturbed the peace in public places.
Kruse noted that the defendant has appeared in court six times and has been convicted for several different crimes, all involving alcohol.
The Chief Justice told the defendant that the court had given him many chances but he has learned nothing from it. Kruse said the only other decision is to impose a hefty jail term.
However, he said the overcrowding issue at the Territorial Correctional Facility is the reason such a lengthy prison time is not imposed.
ALOFA LETULI & OLAFOU WILSON
The High Court has taken under advisement a motion by Assistant Public Defender Michael White to withdraw from representing Department of Public Safety officers Alofa Letuli and Olafou Wilson, citing a possible conflict of interest.
Letuli and Wilson are two of the five public safety officers, facing various criminal charges for alleged misconduct — including alleged illegal drug activities involving juveniles — while assigned to the Juvenile Detention Center (JDC) in Tafuna.
The defendants in this case were charged earlier this year in April.
White said that after having a chance to thoroughly review the case, including documentation on the charges against Letuli and Wilson, specific details emerged including the names of the juveniles who were housed at the JDC at the time of the allegedly misconduct.
He said many of these same juveniles, who are now witnesses in the case and have given statements to police, are the same ones he has represented in court. Because of a possible conflict of interest, he has requested the court to allow him to withdraw from representing Letuli and Wilson, and for the court to appoint new attorneys for the defendants as the case moves forward.
It’s unclear when the court will render a decision on White’s request. Meanwhile, Letuli and Wilson remain in custody, unable to post bail.