Court tells brothers to stay away from “Le Filifili” while awaiting a flight out of American Samoa
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Brothers convicted of unlawful possession of methamphetamine were told by the court not to go near the area called “Le Filifili” while they are still in American Samoa.
The brothers, Tulifau Iosefo Ilimaleota, 24, and Viane Tofamamao Ilimaleota, 32, were visiting their family in America Samoa during the holiday season last December when they were arrested and charged with violating local drug laws.
The Ilimaleota brothers appeared in High Court last week for sentencing. They were represented by Assistant Public Defender Rob McNeill, while prosecuting the case was Assistant Attorney General Laura Garvey.
Tulifua and Viane, who were released from custody after the court accepted their plea agreement in March of this year were initially charged with unlawful possession of methamphetamine, a felony that carries an imprisonment term of between 5-10 years, a fine of up to $20,000 or both.
But under a plea agreement with the government, accepted by the court, each defendant pled guilty to the lesser charge of unlawful possession of methamphetamine, a class D felony, punishable by term of imprisonment of up to 5 years, a fine of up to $5,000 or both.
By their guilty pleas, both defendants admit that on Dec. 23, 2019, they unlawfully possessed methamphetamine. Viane admits that on the day of the incident, he possessed two small baggies containing methamphetamine. Tulifua on the other hand admits that on the day of the incident, he possessed a glass pipe containing methamphetamine.
When given the chance to address the court, the brothers apologized for their actions and humbly asked the court for a second chance to return to their family in the States. They also apologized to their family for what happened.
Tulifau thanked the court for the time he spent in prison, which taught him a good lesson and now he realizes that violating the law comes with consequences. While living in prison, God opened his eyes and he now realizes the difference between good and bad. He also said that there was a significant time of his life wasted in prison because of his action. He promised the court that he would not look back to the path he walked but he will try his best to move forward.
His brother, Viane told the court that he missed a lot of things in this small amount of time he spent in prison. Not only did he miss celebrating Christmas and New Year with his family, he also missed celebrating his birthday with his family, which is one of the reasons they came to American Samoa.
Viane told the court that the amount of time he has spent in prison has helped him to reflect and opened his eyes to better things in the future.
Their defense attorney, McNeill asked for a probated sentence for both of his clients. He told the court that the brothers were visiting their family during the holidays, but their mistake changed everything when they were arrested during a traffic stop last December.
McNeill told the court that the brothers live a good life with their family in the States. Tulifau works for Amazon while Viane has just completed his education with a MA (Masters Degree).
McNeill then asked the court to allow both of his clients to leave the island and return to their family in the States.
The prosecutor echoed defense’s statement and asked the court to adopt the recommendation by Probation contained in the PreSentence Report (PSR).
Before the court delivered its decision, Chief Justice Michael Kruse wanted to clarify something and asked the two defendants if their desire is to return to their life in the States, as their defense attorney alluded. Both defendants replied, yes, they were only here for the Holidays.
The court stated that while marijuana is legalized in many parts of the States for recreational use, meth is not.
The decision of the court was that sentence is suspended for 5 years under certain conditions. First, defendants were told the court does not want them to go near the area called “Le Filifili”, while they are still in American Samoa, or other places where people are involved with illegal drugs. They were also told to comply with the terms the court gave them when they were released on their own recognizance in March of this year, including the “stay clean” order.
Each defendant was told to visit probation and submit themselves for random testing to make sure they are in compliance with the stay clean order. Probation will continue to supervise them until the airline takes them back to their family in the States. However, if their intention is to stay in American Samoa, they would have to come back to court for sentencing.
The court explained to the defendants that suspended disposition of sentence means, at another time the court could sentence them. And if they don’t stay clean, the court would sentence them, not for 90 days but for more time.
The conviction against the two defendants stem from an incident when police pulled over a vehicle for a traffic violation. The two defendants were both passengers in the vehicle.
Both defendants were patted down by police for weapons or illegal drugs. During the pat down, officers found drugs on each of the two defendants. When questioned by investigators, each defendant-brother admitted that the illegal drugs found on them belonged to them; and, the drugs were purchased from the area called “Le Filifili”.