Day 3 of Alo juvie detention trial sees the dismissal of 2 charges
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The government has rested in its case against former DPS police officer Okesene Alo and now it's the defense's turn to present their case.
Alo is facing multiple charges relating to alleged illegal activities at the Juvenile Detention Center, when he was assigned there.
LAST TWO GOVERNMENT WITNESSES
Two former DPS police officers, who are co-defendants in Alo’s case told jurors they saw Alo with methamphetamine inside the Juvenile Detention Center (JDC) during the summer of 2016.
The two former cops, Alofagia Lilia Letuli and Olafou Wilson, were the first two witnesses the government called to the stand during Day 3 of Alo’s jury trial. Both Letuli and Wilson have already entered into plea agreements with the government and as part of that, both agreed to testify in Alo's case.
Letuli has pled guilty to unlawful possession of a controlled substance, to wit; methamphetamine and aiding escape — both felonies, while Wilson has pled guilty to unlawful possession of a controlled substance, to wit; methamphetamine and stealing, also felonies.
In her testimony, Letuli testified that she knows Alo because they worked together at the JDC during the time the incident was investigated in the summer of 2016. However, at no time did she and Alo work together on the same shift.
“Did you witness Alo with drugs inside the JDC?” Deputy Attorney General Lornalei Meredith asked the witness, who responded, “Yes, just once.”
“What type of drugs?” Meredith asked. The witness replied, “It was meth.”
“Did you smoke meth with Alo?” Meredith asked. The witness said yes.
During cross-examination, the defense attorney asked Letuli about the plea agreement with the government, where she agreed to testify for the government in the case against Alo. He asked her to describe the difference between meth and ice, and to explain what they discussed with the government’s attorney during their meeting.
Letuli said they met with the government attorneys twice. Their first meeting, which was not too long ago, took place at the TCF where she is being held. It lasted 5 minutes. She said her attorney Ryan Anderson was present during this meeting.
However, a second meeting, which happened this week outside of the courthouse, lasted only 3 seconds.
When questioned about her plea agreement, Letuli said she was initially facing 10 criminal charges, but she agreed to plead guilty to 2.
“You testified that you saw Alo with meth at the JDC?” deSaulles asked the witness, who replied yes.
“How did you know it was meth?” deSaulles asked. Letuli replied, “It was Alo who stated to me that it was meth.”
The defense then asked the witness to explain her experience and training on how to identify different types of illegal drugs. Letuli said she received training in this area during the Police Academy.
“So, what is the difference between meth and marijuana?” deSaulles asked. The witness replied, “Ice is colored white while marijuana is colored green.”
“What is the difference between meth and ice?” deSaulles continued. The witness responded, “Meth is cold, but ice is ice.”
In redirect, Meredith asked the witness if the reason why she pled guilty to the charge of unlawful possession of meth was because they smoked meth with Alo. The witness replied yes.
“When you smoked meth at the JDC, did you feel different compared to normal?” Meredith asked. The witness replied, “No, I halted it because I didn’t like the smell.”
“What’s meth smell like?” Meredith asked. The witness responded, “It smells like dead people.”
Former police officer Wilson took the stand after Letuli’s testimony. In his account, he told the jury he saw Alo inside the JDC with meth. When asked how many times he saw Alo with meth, Wilson said, many times. He said he also saw Alo smoke meth inside the JDC, inside the kitchen, and also inside the office.
“How did you know it was meth that Alo smoked?” prosecutor Christy Dunn asked. The witness responded, “I recognized it because it was inside a straw.”
Wilson said he witnessed Alo taking food from the facility and putting it in his vehicle, which was parked outside of the JDC. He added that he also witnessed Alo asking kids at the JDC for money, and even saw him instructing some of the kids to call their parents to ask for money.
MOTION FOR ACQUITTAL
Before the defense called their first witness to the stand, lead defense attorney deSaulles argued a motion for acquittal, saying the government has failed to present any evidence to prove their case against Alo.
deSaulles said that under Rule 29 — Motion for a Judgment of Acquittal — the prosecutor must present substantial evidence to support the conclusion of their case. However, he said, in this case, the government failed to do so.
For the first three counts of endangering the welfare of a child, deSaulles said there was no evidence that Alo gave any of the juveniles drugs or alcohol. He said former juveniles at the JDC who testified for the government were not certified to identify different types of drugs.
deSaulles said they’re not challenging counts 4 and 5, those will up to the jury to decide.
For counts 6 and 7, deSaulles said there was no physical evidence the government presented to prove that Alo distributed meth inside the JDC.
For counts 8-13, the defense attorney argued that the government only provided hearsay testimonies, but no solid evidence.
In response, Dunn argued that the government did present evidence to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt. She said all of the witnesses they called have indicated that they saw Alo with meth inside the JDC.
Dunn said two former juveniles at the JDC told the jury that Alo gave them meth. They also stated that they saw Alo with meth inside the JDC. As for the two former police officers, Dunn said both witnesses told jurors they smoked meth with Alo.
The government did say they felt they was insufficient evidence to prove counts 11 and 13 and Dunn then asked the court to dismiss only those two counts.
In delivering the court’s decision, Kruse said they are not in a weighing business. They are there to give instructions about the laws, which apply to the case.
“That is the jury’s business, to review and weigh all the evidence,” Kruse said.
Kruse granted the government's motion to dismiss counts 11 and 13, and the rest of the charges will be given to the jury to decide.
DEFENSE'S FIRST WITNESS
The defense called Det. Ioane Paselio as their first witness. According to him, after he received a call about suspicious drugs at the JDC, he proceeded to the scene with his partner, Det. Seumanutafa.
During their investigation, they drug tested a juvenile who was detained at the JDC and the test came back positive for meth.
Paselio said he and his partner questioned the juvenile about how he got the meth inside his system and the minor told him that he got it from Alo.
The trial resumes today at 9:00 a.m.