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Court sentences man who admits to assaulting his wife

American Samoa District Court building

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — A 46-year-old man accused of assaulting his wife while he was intoxicated has pled guilty.

The defendant, who was released on his own recognizance by the court after spending 45 days at the Territorial Correctional Facility (TCF) appeared before District Court Judge Elvis P. Patea last week for a pretrial conference.

However, when his case was called, defense attorney, Assistant Public Defender Bob Stuart informed the court that they have reached an agreement with the government. Prosecuting the case is Assistant Attorney General Jason Mitchell.

The defendant was initially charged with 4 class A misdemeanors including one count of third degree assault; one count of third degree property damage; one count of endangering the welfare of a child, and one count of being armed with a dangerous weapon.

But under a plea agreement with the government, accepted by the court, the defendant pled guilty to third degree assault. The remaining charges were dismissed.

With his plea, the defendant admits that on July 21, 2019 he assaulted his wife in front of his two minor children by punching her face and kicking her back while she was lying on the floor. The defendant further admits that after he assaulted his wife, he went inside her room, grabbed her clothes, threw them outside of the house, and burned them with the trash.

When asked to present the facts of the case to the court, prosecutor Mitchell said that on the night of July 21st, police at the Tafuna Substation received a phone call from a woman, requesting assistance at her Ottoville residence. The woman, who was later identified as the victim, told police over the phone that her husband had burned her clothes and he’s also armed with a small knife.

Several cops responded to the call and met up with the woman at the front door of her home, where she revealed that her husband (defendant) left the scene when he saw the police units.

At the back of the victim’s house, police saw a re burning. The woman — in tears —told investigators that her husband started the re, and he burned all her clothes after he beat her.

According to the victim, things went south when her husband came home drunk and discovered that their eldest son had left with her sister, who had stopped by earlier that day for a brief visit.

The defendant didn’t want his children to go to his wife sister’s home, because he said her husband is a drug dealer who was convicted of drug possession 5 years ago. A verbal argument erupted between the defendant and his wife.

According to the victim, she was shocked when her husband (defendant) grabbed her hair and pulled her down, then punched her in the face twice, and kicked her back while she was on the ground.

The victim stood up and tried to reach out to her 5 year-old daughter who was crying at the time; however, the defendant pulled their daughter away from the victim’s reach, leaving minor scratches on the little girl’s left hand.

When given the chance to speak, the defendant apologized and begged for a second chance to straighten out his life. He told the court that the 45 days he’s spent in prison taught him a great lesson: that alcohol is not his friend.

“Your honor, I have an alcohol problem,” the defendant admitted to the court. “My alcohol problem caused a lot of problems in my life, especially with my family. It damaged my good reputation and it is now destroying my marriage. I promise I will never consume alcohol every again.”

The defense attorney asked the court for a probated sentence without any period of incarceration. Stuart said his client is truly remorseful and the 45 days he spent at the TCF is enough detention. Stuart shared that his client faces a lot of difficulties in life because of his alcohol problem — not only is he now convicted of assaulting his wife, but his wife has led for divorce.

Prosecutor Mitchell echoed Stuart’s statement for a probated sentence.

The court said the defendant has an alcohol problem that needs to be addressed before it’s too late. The defendant was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment and a $1,000 fine. Execution of sentence is suspended, and he is placed on probation for 24 months subject to several conditions.

He has to serve 50 days at the TCF, with credit for time served (45 days). He is also to remain alcohol and drug free.

“This is the last warning for you. Do not try to contact your wife and children at anytime. If you violate this condition, you will be ordered to serve the full 12 months at the TCF,” the defendant was warned by the court.