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Court shows mercy to a man from Samoa who stole from his uncle

Territorial Correctional Facility, TCF

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA  — A 28-year-old father who was convicted of breaking into his uncle’s home in Vaitogi and stealing a pair of laptops, has been given a second chance. The court has ordered that Si’u Valaau Jr be released from prison.

Valaau Jr, a citizen of Samoa, was initially charged with first degree burglary, a felony; however, under a plea agreement with the government, he pled guilty to the amended count of second degree burglary, a class C felony punishable by imprisonment of up to 7 years, a fine of up to $5,000, or both.

With his guilty plea, Valaau Jr admits that on the night of July 13, 2018 in Vaitogi, he  entered his uncle’s home late at night by removing a screen wire off a window, and he took off with two laptops. (The laptops were later returned to the victim by police).

During sentencing, Valaau Jr was in tears when he apologized for his actions. He begged for a second chance so he can return home to care for his wife and child, and help with his wife's family plantation.

“I am married with one son. Neither me nor my wife work, so we depend on our plantation to survive. I am a young father who works very hard on my plantation to make sure my wife and my son have something to eat everyday," Valaau Jr told the panel of judges.

He said he is remorseful, and assured the court he will never commit another crime. He said the reason he came to American Samoa was to look for a good future for him and his family. But he made a bad choice.

Assistant Public Defender Ryan Anderson told the court his client made a foolish mistake and he failed to realize how his actions would affect his family and his future. He asked the court to allow Valaau Jr to continue to live with his wife and son in American Samoa, because his immigration papers expired while he was in custody awaiting sentencing.

According to Anderson, his client is a suitable candidate for a probated sentence — without any additional jail time — because not only is he a first time offender, he also admitted to the charge early.

Valaau Jr was arrested July 13, 2018 and has spent 13 months in prison.

Prosecutor Doug Lowe echoed the defense’s submission for a probated sentence, saying the government is not seeking any additional jail time, because they feel that the defendant’s 13 months at the TCF is enough punishment for his actions.

Valaau Jr was sentenced to 7 years probation under certain conditions. He is to serve 28 months at the TCF and afterwards, he shall depart the territory and remain outside of its borders for the duration of  probation. Another condition imposed by the court is curfew.

Valaau Jr is not to hang around the bus stop near the school after 10p.m., unless it is for church or village activities.

Execution of the detention period and the condition to depart the territory are stayed until further order of the court.

“You begged for another chance to continue caring for your wife and son. We accept your request and are giving you a second chance. If you fail to abide with all of the court's orders, you will find yourself on the other side of the ocean, and it’s up to you whether you work on your plantation from Apia to feed your wife and son living on island, or you take them with you,” the court told Valaau Jr.