COURT REPORT: Repeat offenders back in court
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — A young man from Mesepa with a long criminal history entered into a plea bargain with the government last week during court proceedings before District Court Judge Elvis P. Patea
Finau Lagomau, who is on probation, was initially charged with 4 misdemeanors including 2 counts of third degree assault, resisting arrest, and public peace disturbance.
However, under a plea agreement with the government, Lagomau pled guilty to public peace disturbance and the remaining charges were dismissed.
With his guilty plea, Lagomau admits that on Aug. 19, 2019 in Mesepa, he disturbed the public peace by being involved in a fight, during which he became loud and caused fear in others.
Judge Patea sentenced Lagomau to 6 months probation.
According to court records, Lagomau has been detained since his arrest and therefore has already served almost 7 months in prison.
The court ordered that Lagomau be released from the TCF but he will remain there, pending a hearing to revoke his probation in the High Court tomorrow at 9 a.m.
The revocation hearing concerns a case in 2016, when the High Court placed Lagomau on probation for five years, after he was convicted of felony driving and resisting arrest. As a condition of his probation, he was ordered to serve 20 months at the TCF and remain a law abiding citizen.
A 39-year-old man convicted of driving with a permanently suspended license is going to jail. Filisi Onetai, who has been in custody since his arrest on Oct. 29, 2019, unable to post a $5,000 bond, appeared in court last week where he was sentenced to 20 months at the Territorial Correctional Facility (TCF), as a condition of a 5-year probation term.
Onetai, a farmer from Pavaiai, pled guilty to the initial charge under a plea agreement with the government. He admits that on Oct. 29, 2019 he operated a motor vehicle while his license was permanently suspended by the District Court. He had been convicted of driving under the influence three times previously.
When given the chance to speak, Onetai apologized and asked for another chance to return home to care for his family. He said he was driving to the Asian store in Nuuuli to drop off his bags of vegetables to sell, so that he can provide money for his family.
Defense attorney asked the court for a probated sentence, saying he has already advised his client to find another way to transport his vegetables any stores to earn money for his family if he is released from prison.
He reminded the court that despite his client's conviction, it is clear from the police report that there was no alcohol or illegal drugs involved when police pulled him over.
The prosecutor echoed the defense motion for a probated sentencing, saying Onetai has shown true remorse, however adding that a period of incarceration is appropriate, so a message is sent out to other drivers whose licenses have been suspended that the court will not take these issues lightly.
The court told Onetai, “You took a big risk when you got behind the wheel, knowing that your driver’s license was permanently suspended by the court after you were convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol three times.”
“The only good thing in your favor, as stated by our defense attorney, is the fact that there was no alcohol or illegal drugs involved in this case, when police arrested you. Our sentence will reflect that."
Onetai was sentenced to 5 years imprisonment. Execution of sentence is suspended and he is placed on probation for 5 years under certain conditions. He is to serve 20 months at the TCF. After 12 months, which includes time served, the court will consider a motion for work release.
Onetai is not eligible for trustee status while at the TCF.
A 22-year-old man who is accused of stealing items from an Asian store in Vaitogi has been charged with misdemeanor stealing and public peace disturbance.
Sosene Filemoni made his initial appearance before District Court Judge Elvis P. Patea last week, where his attorney, requested that his client be released on his own recognizance.
The motion was granted by the court under usual conditions, including contact not entering the Asian store where the incident is alleged to have happened.
According to the government, it was around 11:00 p.m. on Mar. 8, 2020 that police got a call that an intoxicated man stole items from an Asian store in Vaitogi.
The storeowner told police the defendant came in asking for a beer, cigarettes and canned pisupo, and after he placed the items on the counter, Filemoni put them inside his bag.
Afterwards, the defendant asked for a bag of rice and a case of milk.
When the owner walked towards the back to get the bag of rice and a case of milk, Filemoni fled, and the owner chased after him for payment of the items he took.
The defendant was apprehended and placed in the storeowner’s car to await police, after Vaitogi residents who witnessed the chase assisted in his capture.
The storeowner told police this was not the first time Filemoni has done this at his store. The last time the defendant allegedly took two large Vailima bottles and walked away, while he (the owner) was talking on the phone. The next morning, Filemoni’s father went to the store and apologized to the owner, before paying for the beer.
Filemoni’s next court appearance is set for Mar. 30th.