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20-year-old man convicted of burglary and stealing gets 7-years probation

American Samoa High Court building
Court: Serve 7-years probation in Samoa or in local prison (TCF)

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — A 20-year-old man from Samoa convicted of unlawfully entering a home and stealing a rifle was ordered by the court to depart the territory and remain outside of its border for the duration of his 7-year probation.

Leisam Sioka appeared in High Court last Friday for sentencing. He was represented by Public Defender Michael White, while prosecuting the case was Assistant Attorney General Laura Garvey.

Sioka was charged in two separate cases.

In the first one, he was charged with 2nd degree burglary and stealing, both class C felonies, and trespass, a class A misdemeanor. For the second case, he was charged with escape from confinement, a class D felony. Sioka agreed to plead guilty to stealing, with the remaining charges dismissed.

With his guilty plea, Sioka admits that on Mar. 27, 2018 he unlawfully entered a home in Mapusaga Fou and stole several items, including a 22-caliber rifle, which he later sold to another man.

Before Sioka addressed the court, his mother did and begged the court for a second chance for her son, who is her right hand in the family. The mother pointed to her son hanging out with the wrong friends in the village, as the problem. She told the court that if her son is given a second chance, she will make sure to talk to him and advise him to become a better person in the future.

Sioka in his own words apologized to the court for his actions and begged for a second chance so that he can change his life and prove to the court that he will never break the law again. He told the court the 344 days he has served taught him that no one is above the law. He also apologized to the family affected by his actions, asking for forgiveness.

White asked the court for a probated sentence for his client, saying that keeping him in jail does not help him with his problem, but if the court places him on probation, the court will manage his probation to make sure he’s in compliance with all of the conditions.

As a young man, White believes that there is chance his client will change his life and become a good member of the community.

The prosecutor recommended a probated sentence with a period of detention. She reminded the court that the defendant has a criminal record — with the same issue — stealing people’s property.

Associate Justice Fiti Sunia wanted to know about the status of the defendant’s immigration status, as it’s clear from the Pre Sentence Report that the defendant’s immigration status expired in 2017.

Garvey told the court that she received a letter from the Immigration Office, authorizing the defendant to remain in the territory until July 2019, so that he can fix his immigration status and become legal again.

Sunia smiled and asked Garvey how the immigration can grant such an opportunity when his immigration status expired. He also wanted to know who could give such authorization — the Chief Immigration Officer (CIO) or the Immigration Board.

Garvey did not respond to the court’s concern.

In delivering his decision, Sunia stated that based on all the facts of the case and the defendant’s criminal record before the court, he believes the defendant is a danger to the community.

Sunia said the defendant is a 20-year-old young man with a bright future but looking at his criminal record before the court it proves to the court that his bad behavior not only affects members of the community, but his own life. He further pointed to Sioka’s criminal history — from misdemeanors to felonies.

“He put the community in danger, moreover, he put himself in danger by stealing a rifle from a home without permission from the owner,” Sunia said.

Sioka was sentenced to 7 years imprisonment, however, execution of the period of detention was suspended and the defendant was placed on probation for 7 years subject to certain conditions.

He was ordered to serve 28 months at the Territorial Correction Facility (TCF) and is credited for the 344 days he has already served while awaiting sentencing. At the end of detention, the defendant is to depart the territory and remain outside of its borders for the duration of his 7-year probation.

Sunia told the defendant that if he chooses not to depart the territory, he will serve the full 7 years of his probation in jail, and after serving his time, he will depart the territory.

The Associate Justice ordered that the defendant’s name be put on the Immigration lookout list.