Alleged TCF drug ring — Toeava brothers bound over to High Ciourt
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — District Court Judge Fiti Sunia found probable cause to bind over to High Court last Friday, all four felony charges against Spencer Toeava.
(Spencer and his brother Vincent, along with three former prison guards were arrested and charged earlier this month for their involvement in an alleged drug ring uncovered at the TCF late last year. The cases against two of the former guards - Jimmy Stanley and Leasi Neueli - have been dismissed without prejudice, while the case against Papatu Faavae has been bound over to High Court, minus two of the four initial charges. Vincent Toeava waived his right to a preliminary examination hearing last week).
The lone government witness during Friday's proceedings was DPS Vice and Narcotics Unit Detective Faamanuiaga Areta who provided testimony similar to what he said during the PX for Faavae Papatu and Jimmy Stanley. (See Samoa News Jan. 24 and 25 editions for full details).
According to Areta, during their investigation, they were able to speak to a witness, a person he described as Vincent's "right hand man".
Areta told the court that they were called to respond to a possible drug case at the TCF on October 17, 2018. A shakedown of Vincent's cell netted a trio of cell phones, items that later tested positive for weed and meth, as well as cash.
He said when asked, Vincent refused to talk, but his cellmate did. Areta said the witness provided the names of those involved in the alleged drug operation, and the list included three former TCF officers and the Toeava brothers (the five original co-defendants in this case).
The witness allegedly admitted to police that he "helped package and distribute" the drugs in the TCF. Based on Areta's testimony, Spencer is alleged to have smuggled bags of drugs through a small opening at the TCF gate during family visitations.
The witness allegedly confessed that he was the one who would wait at the gate for Spencer to "toss" the contraband over, before delivering it straight to Vincent in his cell. And this occurred frequently in Sept. 2018. The 'reload' of meth and marijuana would then be packaged and distributed throughout the prison facility, according to Areta's testimony.
(The criminal complaint notes that the drugs and money were exchanged via envelopes that were concealed in shopping bags/boxes that were delivered straight to Vincent in his cell).
Defense attorney, Assistant Public Defender Ryan Anderson asked Areta if he had ever "seen" any of the alleged transactions, and the witness said no. Anderson then asked for a date range of the alleged deliveries and Areta said September 2018, but could not pinpoint a specific day.
Anderson argued that the government had failed to prove probable cause, because there is no 'evidence' that his client had 'knowledge' of what was in the bags, and he wasn't compensated for dropping them off.
Anderson went on to argue 'specificity', saying there is no evidence that the marijuana and methamphetamine found in Vincent's cell during the October shakedown, were brought in through the bags that were allegedly delivered by his client in September.
Judge Sunia explained that the court is tasked with looking at the 'totality' of allegations. He said decisions cannot be based on 'suspicions' and 'speculations'. However, there is 'fair probability'.
He referred to the witness's statement that the bag from Spencer was tossed over the gate through an opening on the side of the TCF compound. Sunia said that "secretively" passing something like that "suggests" that there is "knowledge" and the actions indicate that the defendant didn't want others to know.
Sunia said there is evidence to attribute 'knowledge', and added that Anderson's argument for the time frame is not for this court to decide.
He said the totality of circumstances are considered and there is probable cause found to bind over counts 2 and 3 - unlawful possession of methamphetamine, and unlawful possession of marijuana, respectively.
For counts 1 and 4, unlawful distribution of methamphetamine and unlawful distribution of marijuana, respectively, the statute is clear in that, dropping off a bag constitutes 'delivery', said Sunia.
All four felony charges against Spencer have been bound over to High Court where he is expected to enter a 'not guilty' plea during arraignment this morning.