Courts issue sentences — mostly for stealing and drug offenses
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — A young man accused of stealing food, cash and beer from a store in Tafuna told the court that the allegations against him are true.
Maalona Aleki, who has been in custody since his arrest last August, unable to post a $5,000 surety bond, appeared in High Court last week for his Change of Plea hearing.
Aleki, 26, was initially charged with 1st-degree burglary, stealing, both class C felonies, and two class A misdemeanor charges of 2nd-degree property damage and trespass.
However, in a plea agreement with the government, Alefosio pled guilty to stealing, a class C felony, punishable by a term of imprisonment of up to 7 years, a fine of up to $5,000 or both. With his guilty plea, Aleki admits that on Aug 22, 2020 he stole items from a store in Tafuna with the cash value of over $100.
According to terms of the plea agreement, the government claimed that on the morning of Aug. 22, 2020, the owner of a store in Tafuna contacted the Tafuna Police Substation and informed them about his store being burglarized by two men.
Several police officers arrived and the owner showed them footage from a surveillance camera, which captured the whole event. One of the employees from the burglarized store identified one of the men in the surveillance footage as “Alex”, who was later identified as the defendant, while the other individual was a juvenile.
The government claimed that Alefosio damaged the back window of the store to gain entry to the storeroom. He took several food items and one case of beer — the total value of goods was $545.32. He also took $102 cash, which was inside the cash register.
As part of the plea agreement, both defense and prosecution recommended a probated sentence. The government is asking the court for restitution.
Aleki is scheduled to appear in court on Feb. 12 for sentencing.
One of the two defendants arrested after armed detectives of the DPS Vice & Narcotics executed a search warrant at a home in Tafuna last year has entered into a plea agreement with the government.
Fisaga Toese, who is out on $3,500 cash bond, appeared in High Court last week for a Change of Plea hearing.
Toese, 31, was originally charged with one count of unlawful possession of a controlled substance, to wit; methamphetamine (meth), a felony punishable by not less than five or more than ten years in jail, and a fine of not less than $5,000 or more than $20,000, or both.
However, in a plea agreement with the government, Toese pled guilty to unlawful possession of a controlled substance, to wit; meth. With his guilty plea, Toese admits that on Sept. 21, 2020 he unlawfully possessed a glass pipe which contained meth.
The government claimed that on Sept. 21 around 7:03a.m, several police officers executed a search warrant to the home of Toese in Tafuna. Toese was not at his home when police executed the search warrant.
On the same morning, a blue pickup truck was stopped by police in the Tafuna area. The driver was later identified as Toese. Two other male individuals were in the vehicle when police stopped it.
Police approached Toese and informed him about the search warrant. Toese, along with the two other male individuals were escorted to the TPS for enquiries. The two other males were later released by police.
When a body search was conducted on Toese, a glass pipe containing a crystalline substance was found in the front pocket of his pants. In his statement to police, Toese said after he found the glass pipe in a friend’s vehicle he then picked it up and put it in his pocket. He also told police that he knew that his friend who owns the vehicle where the glass pipe was found sells drugs.
Toese is scheduled to appear in court on Feb. 22 for sentencing.
A 48-year-old man accused of assaulting a person with a piece of metal has entered into a plea agreement with the government.
Fred Sopoaga, who has been in custody since his arrest last year, unable to post a $10,000 bond, appeared in High Court last week for a Change of Plea hearing.
Sopoaga was originally charged with 2nd-degree assault and false imprisonment, both class D felonies, punishable by imprisonment of up to 5 years, a fine of up to $5,000 or both.
But under a plea agreement with the government, Sopoaga pled guilty to 2nd-degree assault. The remaining charge was dismissed. With his guilty plea, Sopoaga admits that on Oct. 15, 2020 he knowingly caused physical injury to the victim by striking his head with a piece of metal twice.
According to terms of the plea agreement, Sopoaga was having a birthday party with his friends, including the victim at his house in Tafuna. It was in the middle of the party when a verbal argument erupted between Sopoaga and the victim, which resulted with Sopoaga assaulting the victim by striking his head with the piece of metal twice.
The victim was rushed to the LBJ Hospital for treatment, and according to a report from the physician who treated him, 8 stitches was needed to close the cut on his head.
Sentencing is scheduled for next month.
Sentencing for Keneti Luana is scheduled for next month, after the court accepted his plea agreement with the government.
Luana, who has been in custody since his arrest last October, unable to post a $5,000 bond, appeared in High Court last week for his Change of Plea hearing.
Luana, 29, was initially charged with unlawful possession of methamphetamine; and unlawful possession of methamphetamine (meth) with the intent to distribute. But under a plea agreement with the government, which was accepted by the court, Luana pled guilty to a lesser, amended charge.
In court this week, Luana admitted that on Oct. 21, 2020 he unlawfully possessed 3 small stamp-sized baggies containing meth. The remaining charge against Luana was dismissed under the plea agreement.
According to terms of the plea agreement, police were notified by a man who witnessed Luana selling something that looked like meth to other young men behind the Fagatogo market. Several police officers responded to the call and immediately located Luana.
As police officers were trying to approach Luana, the defendant fled the scene and ran towards the Tedi of Samoa building in Fagatogo. Moments later, the defendant was apprehended and was taken into the Police Central Station for questioning.
During a body search, police discovered the 3 stamp-sized baggies containing meth in the right pocket of his pants. Luana told police that the baggies came from a man by the name of Tee, and he already sold two baggies to his friends for $10 each.
A 30-year-old man from Samoa convicted of unlawfully entering a home and stealing a rifle was ordered by the court to depart the territory and remain outside of its border for the duration of his 7-year probation.
Nofoa Samu appeared in High Court last week for sentencing.
Samu was charged in two separate cases.
In the first one, he was charged with 2nd-degree burglary and stealing, both class C felonies, and trespass, a class A misdemeanor. For the second case, he was charged with escape from confinement, a class D felony.
Samu agreed to plead guilty to stealing, with the remaining charges dismissed.
With his guilty plea, Samu admits that on Nov. 24, 2020, he unlawfully entered a home in Petesa and stole several items.
Samu apologized to the court for his actions and begged for a second chance so that he can change his life and prove to the court that he will never break the law again. He told the court the 14 months he has served taught him that no one is above the law. He also apologized to the family affected by his actions, asking for forgiveness.
The defense attorney asked the court for a probated sentence for his client, saying that keeping him in jail does not help him with his problem, but if the court places him on probation, the court will manage his probation to make sure he’s in compliance with all of the conditions.
As a young man, defense attorney believes that there is chance his client will change his life and become a good member of the community.
The prosecutor recommended a probated sentence with a period of detention. She reminded the court that the defendant has a criminal record — with the same issue — stealing people’s property.
The court wanted to know about the defendant’s immigration status, as the Pre Sentence Report said that the defendant’s immigration status expired in 2019. The prosecutor stated that she would check with immigration for an answer.
The court stated that based on all the facts of the case and the defendant’s criminal record before the court, he believes the defendant is a danger to the community.
The court said the defendant is a 26-year-old young man who could have a bright future but looking at his criminal record before the court it proves to the court that his bad behavior not only affects members of the community, but his own life. He further pointed to Samu’s criminal history — from misdemeanors to felonies.
“He put the community in danger, moreover, he put himself in danger by stealing a rifle from a home without permission from the owner,” the court said.
Samu was sentenced to 7 years imprisonment, however, execution of the period of detention was suspended and the defendant was placed on probation for 7 years subject to certain conditions.
He was ordered to serve 28 months at the Territorial Correction Facility (TCF) and is credited for the 14 months he has already served while awaiting sentencing. At the end of detention, the defendant is to depart the territory and remain outside of its borders for the duration of his 7-year probation.
The court told the defendant that if he chooses not to depart the territory, he will serve the full 7 years of his probation in jail, and after serving his time, he would still have to depart the territory.
A 32-year-old man who was convicted of stealing, and later selling a toolbox containing tools belonging to a mechanic, has been ordered to pay a $1,000 fine as a condition of his 7-year probation sentence.
Fala Logo was convicted of stealing, a felony punishable by 7 years imprisonment, a fine of up to $5,000, or both.
During sentencing, Logo apologized to the court for what he did and asked for a second chance to return home to his family. He also apologized to the company that was affected by his actions and promised the court he would never do it again.
The prosecutor said the defendant stole the toolbox and then sold it to a third party who has since returned the toolbox to its owner, and the defendant has already paid back to the third party the money he received for the sale of the toolbox.
The court told Logo that in the year since this matter has been dragging on, it has presented unusual circumstances.
The court said it normally goes straight to sentencing after a 'change of plea' within a month; but in this case, the one-year period during which the case has been stalled, has been to his advantage because it has given the court the opportunity to see his behavior in public, and he has done well, which tells the court he is someone who'll do well on probation.
The court sentenced Logo to 7 years probation, under the condition that he serves 28 months in jail. The defendant was credited for the 83 days he served in prison, and the balance of his detention term is stayed, as long as he complies with all conditions of probation.
He is also ordered to pay a $1,000 fine within 6 months, and he is not to make contact with the company that was affected by his actions. He is to remain a law-abiding citizen, and report to the Probation Office whenever he is ordered to do so.