Co-defendant in drugs and weapons case sentenced to 2 years probation
“The court is not in the business of forgiving people,” said Chief Justice Michael Kruse when he handed down the sentence for a woman charged with her boyfriend in a drug related case.
Kruse's comments were made after co-defendant Teroa Faletoi's mother pleaded with the court to forgive her daughter's wrongdoing. However, the Chief Justice explained the court has to render sentencing to defendants who break the law to ensure that they will not repeat the same mistake.
Teroa Faletoi and Samuel Tupuola were each charged with unlawful possession of a controlled substance (methamphetamine) with intent to distribute, possession of an unlicensed firearm, and unlawful possession of ammunition. Tupuola — a former cop — faced an additional count of resisting arrest.
In a plea agreement with the government, Faletoi pled guilty to the misdemeanor charges of possessing an unlicensed firearm and unlawful possession of ammunition, while the rest of the charges were dismissed.
She was ordered to pay a fine of $1,000 and sentenced to a jail term of one year for each count; however, the execution of the sentence is suspended and the defendant is placed on probation for two years. Kruse ordered Faletoi to stay at her mother’s house in Vaitogi. Any violation of that order will result in Faletoi being imprisoned at the TCF, he said, adding Faletoi is not to possess any drugs.
Kruse also reminded Faletoi that the court can issue an order deporting her back to her country of origin — which was not identified by Kruse or in court documents.
Prior to sentencing, Faletoi pleaded with the court for a second chance so she can return home and care for her mother who is sick. The defendant’s mother also took the stand and pleaded with the court to forgive her daughter.
She told the court that before her daughter was incarcerated, every time she was sick, her daughter would pick her up and take her to the hospital; but since Teroa has been in jail, she’s worried there will be nobody to take her to the hospital if she gets sick again.
In response, Kruse said the court is “not in the business of forgiving people…” and noted that based on the probation report, the ammunition and firearm found on Faletoi were not hers, but she had possession of them because of her relationship with her boyfriend, Tupuola.
The case against Faletoi and Tupuola came about after police approached Tupuola at his workplace at the hospital, and found a yellow container with 20 cut-up straws with sealed ends containing meth, and three plastic baggies of methamphetamine.
A search of the couple's Ili'ili residence uncovered baggies containing methamphetamine, a hand gun with ammunition, $1,000 cash, three glass pipes commonly used to smoke "ice," approximately 1,200 empty Ziploc plastic baggies, and a digital scale.
Sentencing for Tupuola has been postponed until October 4 after the Chief Justice inquired about the evidence for this case and was informed that it's still off-island and won’t arrive until October 1. He said the court must see the evidence before a sentence can be handed down.
Last week, crying, Tupuola apologized to the court for his actions, saying he's learned his lesson since being incarcerated. He pleaded for a second chance and told the court he will not repeat the same mistake, saying he needs to prioritize his life with a fresh start.
Assistant Public Defender Mike White asked the court to consider the defendant’s age, and take into consideration the fact that he has eight children.
Kruse responded that White should consider the children of others to whom his client is "pushing" drugs. White assured the court his client is remorseful and has learned his lesson.
But Chief Assistant Attorney General Camille Philippe believes differently, saying the defendant does not seem to have learned his lesson, given that he was charged in the past for similar conduct.
Philippe said the court must impose a lengthy sentence for Tupuola, considering the seriousness of the matter.
Tupuola has faced drug charges before, but they were dismissed as part of the plea agreement that required him to testify in a jury trial against another drug defendant several years back.