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American Samoa man guilty of giving meth to kids gets 20 months

American Samoa High Court building
Family made a sua presentation and paid $1K fine to their village council

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — A 29-year-old man who gave methamphetamine to juveniles has been ordered by the High Court to serve a period of detention for 20 months at the Territorial Correctional Facility (TCF), after he was convicted of unlawful possession of a controlled substance —methamphetamine.

The sentence for Tinojaylann Fa’avi of Pago Pago was handed down by Acting Associate Justice, Elvis P. Patea, who was accompanied on the bench by Associate Judges Su’apaia Pereira and Paepae I. Faiai.

Christy Dunn of the Attorney General’s Office prosecuted the case while Acting Public Defender, Michael White represented the defendant, who has been held in custody since the day of his arrest, unable to post a $5,000 surety bond.

Fa’avi, who is the son of one of the mayors (pulenu’u) from Pago Pago was initially charged with unlawful possession of a controlled substance, to wit; methamphetamine, a class D felony, punishable by a term of imprisonment of not less than 5 years but not more than 10 years, and a fine of not less than $5,000 but not more than $20,000.

However under a plea bargain with the government, Fa’avi agreed to plead guilty to unlawful possession of a control substance, a lesser class D felony, punishable by a term of imprisonment of up to 5 years and a fine of up to $5,000, or both.

When given the chance to address the court before it rendered its decision, Fa’avi apologized to the court, the government and the people of American Samoa for what he did. He then asked the court for a second chance to go back home and care for his father.

His father was also present in court during the time of Fa’avi’s sentencing.

The defendant told the court that he learned a good lesson from the time he has been incarcerated, and he hopes that this good lesson will help him with his future.

“I promise that my mistake will never happen again and I will use the rest of my life to do good things and help to fulfill my father’s duty as the Mayor of our village,” the defendant told the court.

The defense attorney called the defendant’s father to the stand to speak on his son’s behalf.

The father introduced himself to the court, saying that he’s the Mayor of Pago Pago, and the defendant is his third child. He said that the defendant is his right hand man in the family, and assisted him in fulfilling his duty as a Mayor of the village.

Because of his position in the village, the father confirmed to the court that his son has already been punished by the Pago Pago Village Council (PPVC), and his family performed a sua presentation along with a fine of $1,000, which was accepted by the Council.

The father then apologized to the court for his son’s deed, and begged for a chance to allow him to come back home to help him out with is responsibility inside the village.

White stated to the court that his client was a young man who made a silly mistake by giving out illegal drugs to young children in the village. White also told the court that his client has a meth problem and he’s trying his best to walk away from it.

“Every time I speak to my client, I keep reminding him that drugs are not good for his life. My client then told me that he’s truly remorseful for what he did and he now understands the impact of his action when he was locked up in jail,” White said.

White then asked the court to give his client a second chance to rebuild his life and become a better person in the future. He said that Fa’avi needs to attend illegal substance abuse counseling to help him with his drug problem.

Prosecutor Dunn asked the court to considered all the facts about what happened which led to the defendant being arrested by police officers last year. She reminded the court that this case came up when several juveniles were found in possession of illegal drugs by police officers. And, when the officers questioned the juveniles, they told police that they got drugs from the defendant.

In summarizing the case, Patea stated that the underlining conduct, which arises from this case started from November of last year, when police officers found illegal drugs in several juveniles’ possession. The juveniles involved told police that the defendant gave them methamphetamine.

Upon receiving an arrest warrant from the court, police officers then proceeded to the defendant’s village trying to locate him. On the night of his arrest, police officers found a glass pipe loaded with methamphetamine in his possession.

“Despite your previous conviction in District Court a few years back, the court notes that this is your first felony conviction with the High Court. However, you are not a first offender in the court system,” the judge told the defendant. Further, Patea pointed to Fa’avi giving “illegal drugs to juveniles, which is a pure act of endangering the welfare of these juveniles.”

The acting associate judge added that after reviewing the Pre Sentence Report (PSR), the court now understands that the defendant has a drug problem, and he has had this drug problem for years now.

“What you did was very serious,” Patea told the defendant. “You gave methamphetamine to juveniles and allowed them to access meth, which is more serious.

“You need to reconsider your actions because the next time you come before the court with the same allegation, you will find yourself in prison for a long period of time,” he said.

Sentencing is a follows: As a condition of his 5-year probation, the defendant is ordered to serve a period of detention of 20 months. He will be credited for the 7 months he served while awaiting the result of his case. He shall not possess nor consume any illegal drugs or alcohol. He is to submit himself for random testing. Furthermore, the Warden is not to consider him for a trustee position at TCF.

The court also ordered that the defendant must pay a fine of $1,000, but because his family has already been punished by the PPVC, the condition of paying the fine was, as long as the defendant complies with all conditions of his probation.