Court denies motion to reconsider sentence in Pago assault case
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The court has denied a motion for reconsideration filed by a man who is serving a lengthy sentence at the Territorial Correctional Facility (TCF) for causing injuries to two people in Pago Pago.
Falaniko Fetoai was sentenced on June 27th to a 10-year straight sentence on two counts of felony second degree assault.
In a decision issued last week, Chief Justice Michael Kruse denied the motion for reconsideration. The decision was signed by Kruse and Associate Judge Muasau T. Tofili.
Fetoai and his defense attorney, Marcellus Talaimalo Uiagalelei appeared in High Court last week for a hearing on the motion. Assistant Attorney General Christy Dunn appeared on behalf of the government.
Uiagalelei pointed to Rule 35, which gives the court the authority to reduce any sentence within 120 days of its issuance. He said the Rule allows a sentencing court to decide, on further reflection, if the sentence was unduly harsh.
Fetoai was sentenced on June 27th and therefore, the motion falls within the 120-day period allowed under Rule 35.
Uiagalelei explained that his client seeks the court’s leniency and urges the court to consider a probated sentence, rather than the straight sentence that he is now serving.
He said Fetoai maintains the belief that a probated sentence would serve a greater purpose, given the circumstances of his case. In the event that the court still feels that probation is not suitable, Fetoai asks the court to consider letting his jail terms run concurrently, rather than consecutively.
Kruse interfered and told Uiagalelei that his motion is more like an appeal, and the only option would then be to file an appeal with the court.
Uiagalelei said his client is not appealing the court’s sentence but rather, humbly asking to reconsider its decision.
Prosecutor Dunn voiced her opposition, saying the court has already delivered its decision based on the facts of the case, and pursuant to the parties’ plea agreement, Fetoai agreed to plead guilty to 2 counts of second degree assault, for which he was later sentenced to 10 years.
Dunn recapped the facts of the case and said a fight had broke out in Pago Pago between Fetoai and the victim’s husband, after Fetoai refused to move his vehicle, which was blocking the entrance to the family’s security gate.
The fight escalated towards the main road, and that’s when Fetoai and his friend were picked up by Fetoai’s sister. But the car stopped in front of the house where the fight started.
Fetoai and his friend jumped out and got into Fetoai’s vehicle, and as family members were walking towards the house, Fetoai sped on to the sidewalk and struck the female victim so hard that she fell back a couple of feet.
The second victim tried to jump out of the way, but his left arm was struck by Fetoai’s truck, causing the left side of his face to hit the front part of the truck’s hood.
According to eyewitnesses, Fetoai never stopped but instead, drove off at full speed.
Kruse asked the Chief Probation Officer (CPO), who was in court, whether this case was about two people who got injured by Fetoai’s vehicle.
The CPO said yes. “So, one of the victims was severely injured as a result of this defendant’s action?” Kruse asked. The CPO said yes.
Kruse said the court’s decision to deny the motion for reconsideration is based on the facts of the case.
In June of this year, Fetoai was sentenced to 10 years behind bars, after being convicted of two counts of felony second degree assault.
During sentencing, Uiagalelei asked for a probated sentence, saying Fetoai takes full responsibility for his actions and has cooperated with the government.
Dunn told the court that she spoke to the families of the two victims and was told that the second victim, a boy, sustained serious injuries but has made a full recovery. However, the other victim, a female, is still trying to bounce back.
According to Dunn, the young mother spent two weeks in the hospital following the incident, and had to be sent off island for further treatment. Today, she has lost her memory and hasn’t been able to fully recover, both mentally and physically.
Dunn told the court that according to the victim’s family, they aren’t interested in any sort of restitution. All they want is for Fetoai to pay for what he did to her, with a long jail term.