The High Court has continued to tomorrow, Thursday, the change of plea hearing for David Fo’a, accused of breaking into several stores — from Pavaiai to Nu’uuli to Ili’ili — between November and December last year.
However, the plea agreement that was publicly read at last Friday’s change of plea hearing, provided details of dates and times, as well as of each store that Fo’a, either by himself or with another person, robbed at night.
The plea agreement that has yet to be accepted by the court also revealed that a gun was allegedly used to threaten a store clerk in one of the robberies, while in other instances a knife and rock were used.
Fo’a was initially charged with nine counts of first degree robbery — the most serious of these types of offenses — but under a plea agreement, which is the subject of tomorrow’s court hearing, the government has agreed to amend the charges in which the first count would be amended down to second degree robbery and the rest of the counts would be amended down to misdemeanor stealing.
The amendments have raised concerns by the court, and the reason for continuing the change of plea hearing. If he enters a guilty plea, he will admit that he robbed different stores and stole money.
According to the government, as cited in the plea agreement, the defendant began his robbery spree on the evening of Nov. 28, 2016 when the defendant went to a store in Nu’uuli and used a small knife and a rock to threaten the store’s cashier, while he allegedly stole more than $100 in cash. The same store was allegedly robbed again on Dec. 11th by the defendant, using the same method to threatened the cashier and this time stole $175.
Another of the robberies happened sometime on the night of Nov. 30, 2016, when the defendant and a juvenile went to another store, where he again used a small knife and a rock to threaten the cashier and stole $170 from the cash register as well as four packs of cigarettes. The same store was again hit by the defendant, on Dec. 3rd, and the same method used to threatened the store cashier but this time, he made off with $400.
On Dec. 1st, the defendant, again accompanied by a juvenile, this time went into another store in Nu’uuli and Fo’a again used a small knife and rock to threaten the store cashier and stole $160 cash.
The next day, Dec. 2nd, the defendant robbed two stores and again used the same weapons to threaten the cashier: he robbed a store in Ili’ili, stealing $35 and a store in Pavaiai, stealing $360 and two cartons of cigarettes.
The robbery spree then became more heinous when the defendant, Fo’a, accompanied by co-defendant, Fa’ai’i Auapaau, whose case is pending in court, used a small hand gun to threaten the store cashier, while Auapaau took the cash register, containing $260. It is this incident that the government has amended from robbery first degree down to second degree robbery.
The final robbery, according to the plea agreement, occurred the evening of Dec. 4th, when the defendant once again used a small knife and a rock to threaten a casher at a store in Petesa. A store worker tried to intervene, but Fo’a punched the worker and stole $210.
Fo’a, who is in his early 20s, remains in custody unable to post bail.
(Samoa News notes that it is unclear as to whether the defendant used a car or someone else gave him a ride, or if he took the bus at night, to be able to rob different stores located in different villages. Also, it is unclear if it is the same juvenile that helped Fo’a during two of the robberies.)
The High Court last Friday gave Tavita Tuisalo’o six months to pay the court fine and abide by all conditions of his probation of his conviction and sentence in 2011 for drug possession.
Tuisalo’o was in court for sentencing after being convicted of violating several conditions of his probation from the 2011 drug conviction. Probation violations include failure to visit the probation office once a month and pay the $2,000 fine.
The defendant pleaded with the court for leniency so that he would be able to care for his wife and children as well as find employment to pay the fine.
Chief Justice Michael Kruse told assistant public defender, Michael White to make sure that his client fully understands that the court can order him to be deported to his home country because he is not a US National or US citizen.
According to the Probation Office information, Tuisalo’o was sentenced in 2011 for a drug conviction, to serve 5 years in jail, but that was waived and the defendant was placed on five years probation under several conditions, including that he serve a certain number of months in jail. He was also ordered to pay a $2,000 fine and visit the probation office once a month or when required.
Kruse told Tuisalo’o that the probation office has a limited number of workers, making it difficult for them keep up with probation violators as well as locate those who violate their probation.
In the end, the court added another condition to Tuisalo’o’s probation, who was ordered to depart the territory, but that condition was suspended. The defendant was then told that he will be monitored by the court for the next six months, which is also the amount of time given to Tuisalo’o to pay the $2,000 fine. He was also reminded that all other probation conditions from the 2011 sentence are still valid.
Tuisalo’o has been in jail for 44 days after being taken into custody several weeks ago for probation violations from the 2011 conviction. Kruse ordered the defendant released and counted the 44 days as part of his probation violation jail punishment.
Kruse told the defendant that as soon as he violates any and all conditions of probation, he will be ordered to return to his home country. Before Tuisalo’o left the court room, Kruse ordered the probation office for a drug test of the defendant.
While the outcome of that drug test was not immediately known, Kruse was very firm on his verbal order from the bench for Tuisalo’o to comply with all conditions of probation, or the court will order him to depart the territory.