COURT REPORT: Reckless driving trips up alleged ice man
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — A man who was arrested during a traffic stop last week when illegal drugs were allegedly found in his possession told police that he bought drugs from the area called “Le Filifili” for his own personal use.
Tufa Aki made his initial appearance in District Court this week where Judge Elvis P. Patea set bail of $5,000 surety bond.
Aki is now charged with one count of unlawful possession of a controlled substance, methamphetamine, a felony punishable by a term of imprisonment of not less than five nor more than ten years and a fine of not less than $5,000 nor more than $20,000, or both.
Preliminary hearing is set for Monday next week, Apr. 13th at 1p.m.
According to the government’s case, it was about 11:40a.m last Saturday, Apr. 4th while three police officers were patrolling in Nu’uuli heading east when they observed an oncoming vehicle driving recklessly heading west. Officers turned around and proceeded to chase after the vehicle, which turned into a company’s parking lot area in Nu’uuli.
Officers arrived and observed the driver standing outside of his vehicle acting as if he was trying to fix it. Upon approaching the driver, he identified himself to police officers as Tufa Aki, the defendant in this matter.
When asked what he was doing, the defendant responded by stating he was trying to fix his vehicle and that something was wrong with the gas pedal. When asked for his driver’s license, the defendant stated that he had a driver’s license but did not have it in his possession.
Officers used the defendant’s name to run through the driver’s license system at the main statin in Fagatogo and as a result, the system could not locate any records indicating the name given by the defendant.
Officers informed the defendant of the discovery but the defendant argued that he had a driver’s license. Officers then informed the defendant that the vehicle would be impounded because he was operating it without a driver’s license. The driver continued to argue with the officers, while walking to the passenger’s side of the vehicle.
It was at that time when officers observed the defendant reach inside of his vehicle, grab a cellphone along with sunglasses. The officers clearly observed the defendant reach into his pocket and then toss something away from him. The officers discovered that the item tossed out by the defendant was a glass pipe commonly used to smoke methamphetamine or ice.
When the two officers attempted to arrest the defendant, the defendant resisted.
The officers then called for backup and were able to place the defendant under arrest and transport him to the Tafuna Substation for questioning. The matter was transferred to investigators from the DPS Vice and Narcotic Unit to handle.
The glass pipe containing white crystalline substance tested positive for methamphetamine.
When questioned about the glass pipe, the defendant immediately confessed to investigators and stated that the glass pipe belonged to him, and that he had purchased a straw about an inch and a half containing methamphetamine for $25 for his own personal use, from an unknown man up in the area called Logotala hill, a.k.a “Le Filifili”.
He also stated that he often purchased meth from Logotala hill and that he never got more than $25 worth of methamphetamine at a time.
A young man convicted of stealing equipment belonging to the government and later violating local drug laws is going to jail. Tanumaleu Fulu was ordered to serve 20 months at the TCF as a condition of his 5-year probation.
Fulu, who has been in custody since his arrest, unable to post a $10,000 surety bond, appeared in High Court this week for sentencing.
The government charged Fulu in two separate cases: first-degree burglary and stealing in the first case, and unlawful possession of methamphetamine in the second case.
But under a plea agreement with the government, Fulu pled guilty to stealing and the amended charge of unlawful possession of meth.
Fulu admits that on Dec. 20, 2018, he entered government property in Tafuna and took off with equipment, which he later sold to another man for drugs.
Three days later, on Dec. 23rd when he was arrested for the stealing case, cops found on him two glass pipes containing methamphetamine.
When given the chance to speak, Fulu, a US citizen, apologized and asked for forgiveness. He said spending over 14 months in prison has taught him a good lesson. He asked the court to allow him to depart the territory and return to the U.S. where his parents reside, so he can find a job and care for them. He said he prefers living in the U.S. rather than in American Samoa.
Attorneys from both sides asked for probation.
Before ruling on the case, the court told the defense attorney that based on the information, the court believes American Samoa is the best place for his client to live. However, if there is a return airline ticket for Fulu to return to the U.S., the court will suspend its sentence and allow him to return to his parents.
Fulu was sentenced to 5 years imprisonment. Execution of the sentence was suspended and he was placed on probation for 5 years subject to several conditions including that he serve 20 months at the TCF. He was credited for the time he spent in pretrial confinement, which was 14 months and the remainder was stayed.
Fulu was released after he was sentenced by the court.
A 24-year-old man who was convicted of stealing was released from custody last week, after the High Court determined that the 14 months he served at the Territorial Correctional Facility (TCF), to await sentencing, was enough.
Pulega Kalolo, under a plea agreement with the government, pled guilty to the amended charge of stealing, a class C felony, punishable by not more than 7 years imprisonment, and/or a fine of not more than $5,000.
With his guilty plea, Kalolo admits that sometime during Jan. 05 of last year, he misappropriated property that belonged to another person.
During sentencing, Kalolo apologized to the government, the court, and people of American Samoa for his behavior and asked for forgiveness, noting, “Please, I want to go home to my family.” His father and his aunty, both present in court, were in tears when Kalolo apologized.
Defense attorney asked the court to give Kalolo another chance. He said his client is only 22 years old, very immature, and he has advised him to think about his future. He said his client is a suitable candidate for probation. The prosecutor echoed the statement.
The court said that while Kalolo is young, the pre-sentence report shows that he's had a prior run-in with the law.
“At the time it seemed minor and the punishment that was ordered in those cases also seemed minor… now you’re in the big league, so the offenses are no longer considered minor, and the punishment will no longer be minor, and you ought to keep that in mind as you go forward,” the court told the defendant.
Kalolo was placed on probation for 5 years under certain conditions. He has to remain a law abiding at all times, visit the probation office once a month, and serve 20 months at the TCF.
“You will be credited the 14 months you have already served; the balance of 6 months will be stayed as long as you comply with all conditions of your probation,” the court told Kalolo, who was also ordered to pay a $1,000 fine within 6 months, and secure gainful employment.