Court shows no mercy — sentences repeat escapee to an additional 5 years
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — An inmate who is serving a 15-year sentence for stealing — and also escaping from the Territorial Correctional Facility (TCF) in January 2012 during which he assaulted a taxi driver — was sentenced by the High Court to an additional 5 years in prison for escaping from confinement, again, last year.
Sefo Tautai Jr appeared in court last week for sentencing. He was represented by Assistant Public Defender Ryan Anderson, while prosecuting was Assistant Attorney General Jason Mitchell.
Pursuant to a plea agreement with the government, which was accepted by the court in September of this year, Tautai Jr pled guilty to escape from confinement, a class D felony, punishable by imprisonment of up to 5 years, a fine of up to $5,000, or both.
When given the chance to speak, Tautai Jr apologized and said he’s truly remorseful for what he did. He told the court that life at TCF right now is not easy, compared to 5 years prior when everything was fine and stable.
“In the past 5 years, we were able to eat well and received everything we asked for; but now, the food is not good and we hardly get what we ask for, such as soap to shower, toothpaste, and food. That’s why inmates escape from confinement,” Tautai Jr told the court.
He added that he’s been trying hard to request to the Parole Board for a chance to go home, but his requests fall on deaf ears. “I want to go home. I want to be with my family and parents but I can’t do anything because the Parole Board does not want to consider my request. I’m truly remorseful for what I did and I don’t want to stay in prison anymore because it’s not a good place to sleep.”
The court asked the defendant why he wants to go home. Tautai Jr said it’s because he wants to care for his parents and family, and he wants to do something else, instead of living at the TCF.
He explained that he did not commit any crime when he escaped from confinement last year — he only went to the store to buy beer and went back to prison.
Defense attorney Anderson told the court that the time Tautai Jr has served in prison has taught him a great lesson — that escaping is not the answer to the many problems they face at TCF.
He then requested that his client get a sentence that will run concurrent with any other sentence he’s serving now. The prosecutor echoed the defense’s submission, requesting that Tautai Jr be sentenced to 5 years — to run concurrent with the time he’s currently serving.
When asked by the court to explain his stance, prosecutor Mitchell explained that he agrees with the defense submission for a concurrent sentence, because Tautai Jr didn’t break the law when he escaped from the TCF last year.
The court reminded him that this is the second time Tautai Jr escaped from jail.
In his first escape, Tautai Jr and another inmate went to a home and assaulted a man who worked as a taxi driver. The man was sleeping in his cab which was parked in front of his house.
The court noted that despite Tautai Jr not breaking the law when he escaped last year, what he did was serious and the court will not take it lightly.
The court sentenced Tautai Jr to 5 years imprisonment — a straight sentence.
In January 2012, while serving a 28-month jail term for a stealing conviction, Tautai Jr and another inmate escaped from the TCF and assaulted a sleeping taxi driver. Tautai Jr punched the man in the face and kicked him on the side and back. The other inmate assisted in the beating.
In the middle of last year, Tautai Jr again escaped from jail, by opening the main gate and walked to the store to buy beer for him and other inmates. Tautai Jr was a trustee at the time. When questioned by investigators, Tautai Jr said he thought his action was justified because he only went to the store to buy beer and came back.