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Drug and alcohol cases pack court calendars

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Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — A young man caught with methamphetamine (meth) and marijuana was sentenced by the High Court last week to a term of probation of 5 years after he entered into a plea bargain with the government.

The court stated that one of the things that is an ongoing concern to the court, is that most drugs offenders that come before the court are users, but the suppliers are still on the run. He told the government’s attorney that this is an essential issue the government needs to consider very carefully.

The young man, Mataio Fonofia appeared in court last week for sentencing.

Onofia was initially charged with two separate cases. In the first case, Onofia was charged with unlawful possession of meth, a felony, while in the second case, Onofia was charged with unlawful possession of marijuana, also a felony.

But under a plea agreement, Onofia pled guilty to the amended charge of unlawful possession of meth, a class D felony, punishable by imprisonment of up to 5 years, a fine of up to $5,000 or both.

Onofia admits that on Nov. 03, 2020, he unlawfully possessed two glass pipes containing meth. He further stated that the two glass pipes that were in his possession were a gift from a friend.

When given the chance to address the court, Onofia apologized for his action, and stated that he’s truly remorseful for what he did. Onofia also apologized to his parents for disobeying them, and also to his whole family and church. He asked the court for a second chance so that he can go back home and rebuild himself. He said prison is not a good place to be, however, the lessons he learned while there will help him to be a better person in the future.

His attorney asked the court to uphold the Probation Office’s recommendation for a probated sentence, to give Onofia another chance to get his life together and find a job to support his parents and family. He said that after spending more than a year behind bars, Onofia had learned a lesson, and he needs to move on with his life. He will also attend and complete drug counseling.

The defense attorney further told the court that his client had never been in trouble with the law before, and the quantity of illegal drugs that were found in his possession was small. However, he did tell the court that while his client was still in custody, he tested positive for meth.

Onofia was to be released from custody after he entered into the plea agreement with the government, however, he was remanded back to the Territorial Correctional Facility (TCF) that same day, after he tested positive for meth.

When asked for the government’s position in this case, the prosecutor echoed the defense attorney’s submission for a probated sentence, saying the government agreed that Onofia is a suitable candidate for a probated sentence.

Before delivered sentencing, the court summarized the case.

The court stated that it was dealing with two cases regarding this defendant. According to the court, Onofia was first charged with unlawful possession that occurred in November of 2018 when police discovered glass pipes containing meth in his possession.

A few months later according to the court, Onofia was charged with his second case when police discovered a stamp sized baggie containing marijuana in his possession.

After reviewing all facts of the case, the court believes that this young man has a drug problem that needs to be addressed. However, attorneys from both sides reminded the court that there are no available treatment facilities on island that can address this defendant’s problem.

The court sentenced Onofia to 5 years imprisonment; however, the sentence was suspended and he was placed on probation for 5 years on several conditions, which include him serving 20 months at the TCF without any release.

Execution of detention shall be as follow: after serving 12 months at the TCF, Onofia shall be released from confinement for a period of 90 days in order for him to seek and secure gainful employment.

Gainful employment according to the Court does not include family farming.

If Onofia can not secure gainful employment within 90 days, he will report back to the TCF to serve the balance of detention. However, if he secures gainful employment, the balance of detention will be stayed until further order of the court.

Additionally, Onofia was ordered to pay a fine of $1,000; stay clean from alcohol or illegal drugs, submit himself for random testing, and be law abiding at all times throughout the probation period.


A man accused of having a glass pipe containing meth in his possession when police pulled over a vehicle he was riding in last year has pled guilty to an amended count of unlawful possession of meth.

Alema Tanielu, who has been in custody since his arrest, unable to post a $10,000 bond, appeared in High Court last week for a Change of Plea hearing.

Tanielu was initially charged with resisting arrest and unlawful possession of a controlled substance (meth), both felonies. However, under a plea agreement with the government, accepted by the court, Tanielu pled guilty to the amended, lesser charge of unlawful possession of meth, a class D felony, punishable by up to 5 years in jail, a fine of up to $5,000 or both.

With his guilty plea, Tanielu admits that on the night of Sept. 27, 2020 he unlawfully possessed a glass pipe containing meth. He also admits that on the night of the incident, he ran from the police because he knew he was in possession of illegal drugs.

As part of the plea agreement, both parties agreed to recommend a probated sentence without any further period of detention. Sentencing is set for next month.

Taneliu was a passenger in a truck that was pulled over for defective lights. While cops were speaking to the driver, Tanielu, who was on the passenger side, opened his door and fled the scene, but was eventually apprehended, and illegal drugs were found on him during a pat down.


The Court says Olando Filisi needs to find a way to address his alcohol problem.

During arguments regarding the defendant’s bail, the Court said it’s clear from court records that Filisi has been in and out of court since 2010 on cases resulting from alcohol use.

Filisi, 46, was taken into custody two weeks ago after family members contacted police for help because Filisi was intoxicated, causing trouble, and swearing at neighbors and others. He also assaulted a man who tried to calm him down by punching him in the face twice and then throwing an empty beer bottle at him.

A neighbor told police that he got into an argument with Filisi, “who was drunk” and started swearing, according to court information, which also says Filisi called the neighbor “stupid”. Filisi allegedly claimed that he is not afraid of beating anyone up.

En route to the main Fagatogo police station, cops detected a “strong odor” of alcohol emitting from Filisi’s breath and clothes. Filisi had to be helped into the police station because he could barely stand, let alone walk.

The defendant was released on his own recognizance (OR) after he made an initial appearance in court this week.

Filisi is charged with third degree assault, public peace disturbance, and trespass — all misdemeanors. Pretrial conference is next month.

One of the conditions of release requires Filisi not to have any contact with the government witnesses, including the victim and his family.


A man accused of violating local drug laws has entered into a plea agreement with the government.

Faresi Seu appeared in court last week for a change of plea hearing. He was initially charged with unlawful possession of a controlled substance (marijuana); however, under a plea agreement with the government, accepted by the court, he pled guilty to the amended and lesser charge of unlawful possession of marijuana, a class D felony, punishable by jail time of up to five years, a fine of up to $5,000 or both.

With his plea, Seu admits that on Dec. 23, 2020 he had in his possession two small baggies containing marijuana. Seu admits that he gave two small baggies to a friend, and he kept the other two for himself.

Due to his illegal immigration status, the government is recommending a probated sentence for Seu, under the condition that he departs the territory and remains outside of its borders for the duration of probation.

Seu was arrested by police for stealing foods from a store in Nuuuli, after the owner of the store called police for assistance.

During a body search, officers discovered two small baggies containing a green leafy substance (marijuana) in Seu’s possession. A glass pipe commonly used to smoke meth was also found on Seu, but was empty.

Seu, who has been in custody since his arrest unable to post a $5,000 surety bond will be sentenced next month.