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Court Report

Chief Justice Michael Kruse [SN file photo]


A man whose trial was “aborted” after the complaining witness failed to show up to testify, has pled guilty to a misdemeanor charge in connection with an alleged shooting in Vaitogi early last year, and has been sentenced to two years probation.

Vise Gauta appeared Monday in High Court for sentencing.

He was initially charged with one count each of first-degree assault and unlawful use of a weapon for a shooting in Vaitogi last January.

Gathered from testimonies and through hearsay, Chief Justice Michael Kruse said the underlying case was that is was a “family scrapple” that could have “gotten serious”. He said it’s troubling to the court that resources were spent on this case and then the trial was aborted.

Gauta told the court the matter has resulted in his home being burned and his cars damaged, but he will accept any sentence handed down by the court.

Public Defender Douglas Fiaui said his client had already served 6 months of pre-trial confinement before he made bail.

He requested a probative sentence without any further jail term.

Assistant Attorney General, Woodrow Pengelly said the government does not disagree with the defense. He said he spoke to the victim, who said the defendant has apologize and “the apology was sincere.”

Kruse quickly interjected and said the victim — the complaining witness — didn’t even show up for trial, although “you subpoenaed her.”

According to the victim, the defendant is very remorseful, said Pengelly, adding that the government requests to suspend any jail time and place Gauta on 24-months probation. He noted that the defendant “has some history” in District Court, but didn’t elaborate further.

Kruse ordered that a two-year jail term be suspended and the defendant is placed on probation during that period.


The High Court has reluctantly given another chance to Tua Jarret Leilua, who violated conditions of his probation after he tested positive for meth.

Leilua was convicted of stealing about $1,500 from his stepmother’s bank account last August.

He was sentenced to 28 months in jail, but execution of the sentence was suspended and he was ordered to serve 7 years probation under several conditions, which included serving 6 months in prison.

The six-months prison term ended Aug. 15, 2017 and the defendant was released.

Information revealed during Monday's court hearing indicate that Leilua has been in custody for 52 days for violation of probation, after he tested positive for drugs.

Leilua apologized for violating probation, and asked for a chance to return home to be with his parents.

Public Defender, Douglas Fiaui explained that although Leilua tested positive for meth, he was trying his best to comply with conditions set by the court. For example, Leilua had already paid about $800 in court ordered restitution.

“He squandered away that opportunity when he tested positive,” Fiaui said of his client, and requested the court to defer any lengthy jail time for Leilua as stipulated by the court for violating provisions of probation.

Assistant Attorney General Robert Morris said the government agrees with the Probation Office's report and with the defense’s recommendation.

“Do you have enough saimin to feed another mouth [at TCF]?” Kruse asked Morris, who responded that he would defer that question to the Territorial Correction Facility (TCF) warden. Kruse noted that there’s “one too many” prisoners walking about and suggested that government agencies involved in these matters “should talk to each other.”

With Leilua already serving 52 days in jail for violating his probation, the court added an additional 38 days at TCF, while the remainder of the 22 months in jail (from the original sentence last year) is deferred, under several conditions.

Among them, said Kruse, is that Leilua must find gainful employment within the next 30 days. “If not, you are back to the [TCF] warden to eat more saimin,” he told Leilua. “We are reluctantly giving you another chance because of your addiction. Your parents are not happy with you... violating probation.”


The government’s case against a public elementary school teacher, who is one of the two defendants in a drug case that surfaced last year and led to two Tafuna High School (THS) students being taken into custody, is going to trial after both sides failed to reach a resolution.

Iosefa Alo is facing one felony count of unlawful distribution of a controlled substance - methamphetamine. He appeared in High Court last Friday for a pretrial conference where his attorney, Public Defender Douglas Fiaui, said the defense has received discovery from the government.

However, he said, the defense is unable to reach an agreement with the government and therefore, his client will go to trial.

Based on information at the hearing, the trial is set for 2020, but Chief Justice Michael Kruse said the court will work on an earlier trial date and for both sides to be prepared. Kruse also reiterated to the government that the drugs involved in these cases should be sent off island right away to be tested so these cases can move forward.

Alo’s co-defendant is Galu Nofoa, who pled guilty three weeks ago to giving marijuana to a minor last October. The fifty-year-old Nofoa will be sentenced Feb. 9th.

The government alleges that on Oct. 6, 2017, Alo gave a minor a glass pipe loaded with ‘ice’ and told him to sell it for $30 cash or for marijuana joints in return for the ‘ice’ inside the pipe.