Court hands down jail sentences in assault and driving cases
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — A young man who assaulted another man by punching him in the face and kicking him multiple times while he was on the ground was sentenced last week to 24 months behind bars.
Valoaga Kome was initially charged with third degree assault; third degree property damage; resisting arrest; and stealing — all class A misdemeanors. But under a plea agreement with the government, accepted by the court, Kome pled guilty to third degree assault and third degree property damage, each punishable by imprisonment of up to one year in jail, a fine of up to $1,000 or both. The remaining charges were dismissed.
Kome admits that on June 12, 2019 he, along with two male friends, assaulted the victim, who had joined their drinking session at Kome’s Petesa home. A verbal argument ensued between the victim and one of Kome’s friends, who was then asked to leave.
As the friend was leaving the area, the victim yelled out and challenged him to a fight. The victim also accused Kome of selling drugs in the village. That’s when Kome, who had tried hard to calm things down, punched the victim, causing the man to fall.
While on the ground, Kome kicked the victim in the back and on his face before punching him again. When cops tried to place him under arrest, Kome refused to have his hands cuffed. He walked away from officers and caused over $100 in damages to the victim’s vehicle.
Kome apologized to the court and begged for a second chance, saying he is the only one working to support his 3 kids. District Court Judge Elvis P. Patea sentenced Kome to 24 months in jail, subject to several conditions. He is to pay a $150 fine, and attend and complete anger management counseling.
A 45-year-old man from Tafeta convicted of driving with a permanently suspended license is going to jail. Iosua Faalemiga, who has been in custody since his arrest on Aug. 29, 2019, unable to post a $5,000 bond, appeared in court last week where he was sentenced to 20 months at the TCF, as a condition of a 5-year probation term.
Faalemiga pled guilty to the initial charge, under a plea agreement with the government. He admits that on Aug. 29, 2019 he operated a motor vehicle while his license was permanently suspended by the District Court. He had been convicted of driving under the influence, three times previously.
When given the chance to speak, Faalemiga apologized and asked for another chance to return home to care for his family. He explained that he was driving to the hospital to drop off his elderly mother for her check-up, because she is unable to walk due to her health.
Defense attorney Rob McNeill asked the court for a probated sentence, saying he has already advised his client to find another way to transport his mother to the hospital for her monthly check-ups, if he is released from prison. He reminded the court that despite his client's conviction, it is clear from the police report that there was no alcohol or drugs involved when he was pulled over.
Prosecutor Doug Lowe echoed the defense motion for a probated sentence, saying Faalemiga has shown true remorse. He however added that a period of incarceration is appropriate, so a message is sent out to other drivers whose licenses are suspended, that the court will not take these issues lightly.
In delivering its sentence, the court told Faalemiga that he took a big risk when he got behind the wheel, knowing his driver’s license was permanently suspended after he was convicted of driving under the influence multiple times. “The only good thing in your favor, as stated by your defense attorney, is the fact that there was no alcohol or illegal drugs involved in this case, when police arrested you. Our sentence will reflect that,” the court said.
Faalemiga was sentenced to 5 years imprisonment. Execution of sentence is suspended and he is placed on probation for 5 years under certain conditions. He is to serve 20 months at the TCF. After 12 months, which includes credit for time served, the court will consider a motion for work release.
Faalemiga is not eligible for trustee status while at the TCF.