TCF police officer pleads guilty to permitting escape
Fiti Aina, one of the two police officers charged on allegations they allowed inmates at the TCF to go on a beer run to a nearby store, has pled guilty to permitting escape.
Aina and fellow officer Rocky Tua were arrested last July and are out on bail of $15,000. Each man was charged with aiding the escape of a prisoner, permitting escape, and public servant acceding to corruption.
Charges against the two cops came after a raid of the prison uncovered numerous contraband items including beer bottles, a flat screen TV, screwdrivers, tools, fans, and cell phones — all of which were seized by CID detectives using two large police trucks.
Aina was placed on leave when he was charged. Last Friday, in a plea agreement with the government, he pled guilty to permitting escape and the remaining charges were dismissed.
Chief Justice Michael Kruse, who presided over the change of plea hearing, accepted the plea agreement which noted a joint recommendation by government and defense attorneys not to impose a jail sentence.
Permitting escape is a class D felony which is punishable by up to five years imprisonment and a fine of up to $5,000 - or both.
Aina will be sentenced on October 8, 2014 the day after his co-defendant Rocky Tua is set to face a jury trial.
On July 20, 2012 the Criminal Investigation Division (CID) of DPS conducted a surprise shakedown at the TCF, where alcoholic beverages were observed in one of the cells. An investigation into the matter revealed that police officers were sending inmates out, unsupervised, to a nearby store to purchase beer.
Police findings note that TCF inmate Tagaleo’o was observed unsupervised at a nearby store shopping on the evening of July 19, 2012.
Tagaleo’o was sentenced last year to serve 40 months detention for first degree assault. The court had issued a sentence mandating Tagaleo'o to serve his term without any release whatsoever, except for genuine medical emergencies.
When questioned by police, Tagaleo’o said he was given permission by Officer Tua to go to the store to shop for him. Tagaleo’o allegedly told police that he was sent to the store on July 19, 2012 two nights before CID conducted the raid.
Another inmate named Ofoia told investigators that Officer Tua gave him the keys to the cell, with instructions to open the cell to allow Tagaleo’o to go to the store to purchase beer, a phone card, cookies and sodas.
Court affidavits state that another inmate allegedly told police that he witnessed Officer Tua instructing Tagaleo’o to go shopping. The witness told police that the money used for the purchases came from another inmate named Maosi Fualaau. He added the purchased goods were left behind the TCF church and they were to be picked up at a later time.
The witness told investigators he picked up what was left behind the church by Tagaleo’o, and later gave all the items to Officer Tua, except for the beer which he was instructed to hold on to for inmate Fualaau.
According to the government's case, Tagaleo’o told police he was sent twice to the store by Officer Tua, and the first time he went to the store he saw inmate Raponi Sefo Isaulaiga there.
Tagaleo’o said he couldn't recall the exact time he was sent to the store to purchase beer during the second run. But he did indicate that in addition to Officer Tua, Officer Aina had also sent him to the store to purchase beer; however, he does not recall the exact date although he is certain it was sometime earlier this year.