A young man who was convicted of stealing in connection with a store robbery in Malaeimi during which a handgun was used to threaten the cashier, has been sentenced to 28 months in jail.
Fa’asi'i Aupaau, 19, was initially charged with first-degree robbery; but under a plea agreement with the government, the defendant pled guilty to the amended charge of felony stealing.
With his guilty plea, Aupaau admits that on the night of Dec. 13, 2016, he and co-defendant, David Fo’a, who is also his relative, entered a Malaeimi store with the purpose of robbing it.
The two men wore masks at the time of the robbery and according to the plea agreement, which was read aloud in court, when they entered the store, Fo’a pointed a gun at the cashier while Aupaau stole the cash machine which contained $260.
Among the provisions of the plea agreement, is that Aupaau testifies truthfully in the government’s case against Fo’a, who is accused of breaking in to 8 different stores on the west side.
Fo’a is facing nine felony charges, including five counts of felony stealing, in addition to two misdemeanor charges.
Aupaau was in court last Friday for sentencing.
His father, who was a character witness, apologized to the court for his son’s actions and asked for a chance to allow his son to return home — from jail — to be with his family.
Prior to this, Aupaau's father said his son was very obedient, always helping him in ways to develop the family.
Chief Justice Michael Kruse asked if he knows what happened in his son’s life, which resulted in him going to a store late at night, wearing a mask, in an act where a gun was involved.
Kruse said he wanted to know why Aupaau resorted to a criminal action.
“Was he hungry” and there was no food at home? The father said this all happened, because Fo’a, who is a relative, tempted his son.
“I wonder if he was hungry and you did not feed him,” Kruse told the father, adding that although the father described his son as being obedient, he nonetheless committed a crime, so it's unclear to the court if the son listens to his parents or to Fo’a.
When it was his chance to address the court, Aupaau said he was remorseful, and sought leniency that would allow him to return home to help his parents.
Public Defender, Douglas Fiaui requested a probative sentence for Aupaau.
The defense acknowledged the seriousness of the crime, but Fiaui informed the court that Aupaau is still young, only 19, and he committed this crime only at Fo’a’s urging.
Assistant Attorney General Robert Morris pointed out that the most serious issue in this case is the dangerous weapon that was used in order to steal the cash register.
While the government supports a probative sentence, Morris said this kind of life — being a criminal using a weapon to rob a store — is not acceptable.
Kruse said it's difficult to determine an appropriate sentence for the defendant, because similar cases have come before the court in the past and the sentence handed down to the offenders is 40 months imprisonment.
The court then sentenced Aupaau to 7 years probation, under several conditions which includes serving 28 months in jail with pre trial confinement counted towards the jail term. Aupaau has been locked up at the TCF, unable to post bail, since his arrest earlier this year.
The defendant was also ordered to pay a $1,000 fine and is prohibited from associating with Fo’a, whose case is pending in High Court.
(Original Samoan story published Aug. 23rd in the Samoa News)
The High Court last Friday decided not to render a decision on the case of Suauupaia Amituana’i, to await the outcome of new charges the government filed in District Court against the defendant. The High Court also wants to know who is taking care of the defendant’s six children at home, while he is in custody.
Amituana’i was in High Court for sentencing, after failing to comply with all provisions of his probation from a 2014 case, where he was ordered to visit the probation office and pay a court fine.
Amituana’i asked the court for a chance to return home to care for his children, saying that he is a “mechanic” and operates his own private business at home, to help care for his family.
Public Defender Douglas Fiaui informed the court that his client has been in custody for 37 days and this has impacted his family, with no one working to provide financial support.
Assistant Attorney General Woodrow Pengelly asked the court to look at the new charges filed by the government against the defendant, when considering an appropriate sentence.
When Acting Associate Justice Elvis P. Patea inquired about the new charges, the prosecutor said Amituana'i is charged in the District Court with driving while under the influence of alcohol, attempted stealing, and forgery.
He said the charges stem from an incident last month.
Patea said the High Court would await the outcome of the District Court case before rendering a decision on the probation violation charge against the defendant, who appeared in District Court this past Monday, for a separate hearing.