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Court Report: Man accused of burglarizing Asian stores wants a jury trial

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Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — One of the men accused of burglarizing three Asian stores and stealing several items wants a jury trial.

Aleli Valaau, who has been in custody since his arrest last year, appeared in court last week for a pretrial conference.

When his case was called, his attorney, Assistant Public Defender Rob McNeill said they have received all the discovery from the government along with a plea offer. However, after discussions with his client, they are unable to accept the plea offer and therefore, they’re asking to set the matter for trial.

Prosecutor, Assistant Attorney General Laura Garvey did not oppose.

Valaau, 20, is charged with 1st degree burglary, stealing, and 1st degree property damage, all class C felonies; along with trespass and underage drinking, both class A misdemeanors.

According to the government’s case, Valaau, and his two co-defendants, Misi Teofilo and Onosa’i Apulu burglarized three Asian stores last year.

On the night of Feb. 11, 2018, the three men damaged the back door of the first store in Tafuna before they entered and stole items valued at $32. Two nights later, the trio hit up a second store by breaking the rear door, and stealing items including $130 cash from the register. The very next night, Valaau and co-defendant Apulu broke in to a third store in the Tafuna area by tearing down the screen wire and taking off with food items, cigarettes, and two cases of beer.


A man accused of causing severe head injuries to his neighbor has pled out.

Mark Va’alele was charged in two separate cases. For the first case, he was charged with first degree assault, a class A felony; and 2 misdemeanor charges of stealing and third degree property damage.

In the second case, he was charged with unlawful possession of a controlled substance (methamphetamine) with the intent to distribute, a class D felony.

But under a plea agreement with the government, which was accepted by the court, Va’alele pled guilty to the amended charge of second degree assault in the first case, along with the lesser amended charge of unlawful possession of methamphetamine in the second case.

With his guilty plea, Va’alele admits that on Mar. 24, 2018 he assaulted a man by striking his head with a rock. He also admits that on the same day, while he was at the Tafuna Substation, he possessed a glass pipe containing methamphetamine.

According to terms of the plea agreement, a drinking session with friends took place at Va’alele's home in Aua. A verbal argument erupted between Va’alele and Sio.

Eyewitnesses told police that Sio threw the first punch, which caused Va’alele to fall to the ground. Va’alele stood up and punched Sio twice, dropping him.

Va’alele then grabbed a rock and hit Sio’s head several times, which resulted in severe head injuries.

According to physician's report, Sio needed 12 stitches to close the cut on his head.

Va’alele is scheduled for sentencing on May 17


A 39-year-old man accused of unlawful possession of methamphetamine is scheduled to appear in court next Wednesday for an Order to Show Cause (OSC), on the allegation that he violated conditions of his release on bond.

According to a report from the Probation Office, one of the conditions of Foma’i Sautia's bond release requires him to remain law abiding and not make any contact with any of the government’s witnesses. Last month, Sautia was arrested for disturbing the public peace.

When he appeared in court last week for his initial appearance on the OSC, Sautia's defense attorney, Assistant Public Defender Rob McNeill told  the court his client wants a formal hearing on the new allegation against him.



The trio of co-defendants charged with trespassing at a westside sewing shop earlier this year was set for pretrial conference yesterday in District Court.

Siiloto Tali a.k.a. Jane Tali was not present and a bench warrant has been ordered. Bail is set at $500

Repeat offender Wayne "Ueni" Gasolo and co-defendant Taiana Vaueli both pled guilty to trespass yesterday.

With her guilty plea, Vaueli, 19, admits that on Feb. 25, 2019 she unlawfully entered a home that wasn't hers, and ended up sleeping in there.

She was sentenced to 6 months probation and ordered to pay $100 within 30 days. Furthermore, she is to remain alcohol and drug free, and be law abiding at all times. She is subject to random testing by Probation.

Gasolo was serving probation for a High Court matter when  he was picked up last month. Judge Elvis P. Patea has credited him 31 days for time served and he now has to deal with his pending matter in High Court.

Gasolo has a lengthy criminal record. He was one of two inmates who tested positive for meth last year. In 2017, he pled guilty to drug possession after he was arrested at an abandoned house where he is believed to have drug-fed young girls and engaged them in sexual activities. He was sentenced to 5 years probation for that case, under the condition that he serve 20 months at the TCF.


A man who was involved in an altercation following a family discussion regarding a home being built on communal land has been sentenced to 6 months probation.

Kuinese Moeai pled guilty yesterday to the amended charged of private peace disturbance. He was initially charged with public peace disturbance.

The charge against him stems from an incident that occurred on Oct. 23, 2018.

When given the chance to speak, Moeai apologized for his actions and the time wasted by the court and its staff in dealing with this matter. He asked the court to forgive him and his family.

Assistant Public Defender Anna Whiles had sought the court's leniency in sentencing her client. But Judge Elvis P. Patea noted that four other people were involved in the dispute and subsequently charged. All have been sentenced.

"I don't see why his (Moeai) sentence should be any different," said the judge.

In addition to probation, Moeai is ordered to pay $100 within 30 days.


A man who pled guilty to public peace disturbance has been ordered to attend and successfully complete an alcohol counseling program, and he is to remain sober and drug free.

Etuale Tafa was initially charged in two separate cases. He was charged with public peace disturbance and third degree assault for a case from 2017. Last year, he was picked up again and slapped with the same exact charges.

Thursday in court, under a plea agreement, Tafa pled guilty to PPD in the second case. In return, the 2017 case in its entirety was dismissed, along with the assault charge from the second case.

Tafa was sentenced to 12 months probation and ordered to pay $100 within 30 days. He is ordered to remain law abiding.