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C.J. Kruse trips up convicted drug defendant’s silver-tongued story

Chief Justice Michael Kruse

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — A man from Samoa who was convicted for meth possession asked the court for permission to seek employment to care for his wife and children. His request was denied by the Court and instead, the Court ordered him to depart the territory and remain outside of its borders for the duration of his 5-year probation.

Kruse stated during sentencing that according to Probation, the defendant’s wife and five young children are all in Alaska at this time and he doesn’t know which wife and children the defendant wanted to seek employment to provide for.

Faasasao Mauga, who has been in custody since he was arrested last year, unable to post his $5,000 cash bond appeared in High Court last week for sentencing.

Prosecuting the case was Assistant Attorney General Doug Lowe, while Assistant Public Defender Rob McNeill represented the defendant.

Thirty-six-year-old Mauga, who was a taxi driver when police arrested him on Dec. 30, 2018, was initially charged with a single count of unlawful possession of a controlled substance, to wit; methamphetamine, a felony punishable by a term of imprisonment of not less than five years and not more than ten years, and a fine of not less than $5,000 and not more than $20,000, or both.

However, under a plea agreement, Mauga agreed to plead guilty to an amended count of unlawful possession of methamphetamine, a class D felony, punishable by a term of imprisonment of not more than 5 years, and a fine of not more than $5,000, or both.

Before the court rendered its decision, Mauga was given the opportunity to address the court telling them that he was ashamed for what he did, and he apologized to the American Samoa government, the court and the people of the territory for breaking the law.

He admitted to the court that not only was he selling drugs, he has a drug problem. He told the court that while he was in prison, he used the time wisely by working closely with some church groups and organizations to chance his life and become a better person in the future.

Mauga’s defense attorney McNeill told the court that while his client’s immigration is still valid, he asked for an opportunity to place him on probation, so that he would be allowed to seek employment to care for his 5 young children and his wife, who solely depended on him for everything in life.

Chief Justice Michael Kruse interrupted and wanted to know more about the defendant’s request for an opportunity to allow him to seek employment to care for his family. McNeill told the court that according to his client, his wife is unemployed and there is no one who can provide for his children. The prosecutor echoed the defense’s request for a probated sentence.

A recess was then called.

Once back in court and before he delivered sentencing, Kruse summarized the case.

Kruse stated that the underlining conduct, which arises from this case started when police executed a searched warrant on the vehicle the defendant was driving. The search warrant was based on the information received by cops that the defendant was involved in a private business where some men including the defendant were selling drugs to people in front of a store in Tafuna.

According to the court, before cops executed the search warrant on the defendant’s vehicle, they observed the defendant give another man something that was covered with a piece of clothes. At the same time, cops also observed the defendant receive something from the same man.

When approached by the cops, the defendant immediately told police that he had two more left in his possession. The defendant was referring to the two glass pipes that were inside his pants pocket, which were later turned over to police.

The court also stated that during the course of the investigation, the defendant told investigators everything he knows about the drug business, including those who were involved.

The court further stated that after Mauga’s guilty plea was accepted last month, his defense’s attorney asked the court to release his client on his own recognizance and the government’s attorney did not oppose the motion.

The court then ordered that the defendant be released into the custody of the Chief Probation Officer for drug testing.

Mauga, however, was never released after he tested positive for methamphetamine. He was taken back to TCF on the same day to await sentencing last week.

Mauga was sentenced to 5 years in jail and a $2,000 fine.

Execution of the sentence is suspended, and he is placed on 5 years of probation on the condition that he serve 20 months at the TCF and remain alcohol and drug free. He will be credited for the time served awaiting the outcome of his case.

All but the balance of detention was stayed, and the defendant was ordered to immediately depart the territory and remain outside of its borders for the period of detention.

The government’s attorney was ordered to provide a copy of the court’s judgment for the Chief Immigration Officer, to make sure the defendant’s name is included on their “lookout list”.