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Solofa appeal denied

The federal appeal’s court in Washington D.C. has affirmed a lower court decision in the conviction and sentencing of former local Department of Education official Paul Solofa, who is currently serving his prison term at the Federal Detention Center in Honolulu.


Solofa was convicted in early 2012 by a jury at the federal court in Washington D.C. of witness tempering and obstruction of justice. Early last year, Solofa appealed his conviction as well as the jail term of 35 months. The federal charges against Solofa stemmed from the time he was head of the DOE Finance Office several years ago.


The defense had argued in appeal documents that the defendant — during trial — didn’t get effective assistance from his trial attorney who failed to raise an “entrapment defense” and that the court erred by handing down a much longer jail term than is required by federal sentencing guidelines.


The government disagreed with the appellate defense attorney’s argument, saying the court didn’t make any error in sentencing and that the trial defense attorney’s “performance was neither deficient nor prejudicial... because Solofa did not have a viable entrapment defense.”


Oral arguments were heard last December before Senior Circuit Judge David B. Sentelle and Circuit judges Thomas B. Griffith and Sri Srinivasan. After reviewing all briefs and hearing oral arguments, their decision — which was released yesterday, states in part “we affirm Solofa’s conviction and sentence.”


Samoa News will report in Monday’s edition on details of the decision issued by Griffith as well as reactions from the U.S. Justice Department and Solofa’s attorney for the appeal phase.


Prosecutors had accused Solofa of being the mastermind behind the Department of Education school bus spare parts kick-back scheme, but have remained silent on why Solofa was never charged with bribery, or whether he will ever be charged.


Solofa reported to the Honolulu federal jail not long after he was sentenced in June 2012.  According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons online records, Solofa is scheduled to be released on Aug. 25, 2014.