Court says foreigners convicted in drug cases should be deported to save our resources
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — During the sentencing of a man from Samoa convicted of violating local drug laws, the court said the only option in cases like this, is to send the culprits back to their countries, to save local resources.
Mataese Aleki, a citizen of Samoa, was in custody for over 12 months, unable to post a $10,000 bond. He was initially charged with one count of unlawful possession of methamphetamine, an unclassified felony punishable by 5-10 years in jail, a fine between $5,000- $20,000 or both.
But under a plea agreement with the government, accepted by the court, Aleki pled guilty to the amended charge of unlawful possession of methamphetamine, a class D felony, punishable by jail time up to 5 years, a fine up to $5,000 or both.
Aleki admits that on Nov. 31, 2018, he had a glass pipe containing meth. He apologized to the court, the government, and his family, and requested a second chance to return home to care for his elderly mother, his wife and children.
“… Please give me a chance to change my life and be a better person,” he said, promising to “never deal with drugs anymore”. He added, “I don’t want to go back to the dark days of my life. I want to go home and redeem myself.”
The court asked Aleki how he was going to redeem himself and care for his family if he continues to put his drug addiction before them. A teary-eyed Aleki said, “I’m a changed man now. I learned my lesson and I know I wasted many days of my life in prison because of the bad choices I made. I want to go back home and do something good for my children, and fulfill my responsibilities as a father.”
Defense attorney Rob McNeill asked the court to uphold Probation’s recommendation for a probated sentence. He said Aleki needs to move on with his life, and he will attend and complete drug counseling.
Aleki’s immigration status is current and he had a job before he was arrested. McNeill said his client has strong ties in the territory, as not only was his wife born in American Samoa, his four young children were also born here.
Prosecutor Doug Lowe said the government believes Aleki is a suitable candidate for a probated sentence, and the court will manage his probation, giving him time to change his life and address his drug problem.
RECAP OF THE FACTS
Aleki was arrested Aug. 21, 2018 when police discovered a small quantity of meth on him. The search was triggered by a public peace disturbance (PPD). Aleki was released from confinement, with conditions, after he posted a $2,500 bond. Less than 3 months later, he was re-arrested for PPD in Pava’ia’i, after he and another male got into a fight in front of a store during a drinking session. Aleki was convicted in District Court of PPD and was sentenced to 105 days at the TCF. He appeared in High Court for a status hearing during which the court did not revoke his release on bond; instead, bond was increased from $2,500 to $10,000.
Aleki has been in custody ever since, unable to post the new bond amount.
Kruse said that according to Probation, Aleki is a citizen of Samoa who has been in the territory for a long time. “In cases like this, the only option for the court to deal with foreigners who come into American Samoa and violate local drug laws is to send them back to their countries, in order for our government to save local resources.”
He added, “the court will hold off with our deportation authority for this case, at this time.” Aleki was sentenced to 5 years in jail and a $5,000 fine. Execution of sentence is suspended, and he is placed on probation for 5 years on the condition that he serve 20 months at the TCF and remain alcohol and drug free.
All but 12 months of detention is stayed until further order of the court. Aleki was released from custody after sentencing last week. He is ordered to pay a $3,000 fine and attend and complete a drug counseling program.