First conviction for failure to comply with COVID-19 restrictions
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The first person convicted by the court for failure to comply with the requirements set by the government during the Governor’s declaration for the COVID-19 enforcement was ordered by the court to pay a fine of $50.
According to District Court Judge Elvis P. Patea, this is the standard procedure the court is going to use in dealing with all the cases related to the COVID-19 enforcement when one comes to court.
Bus driver, Foemua Taveuveu appeared in court this past Wednesday for his pretrial conference hearing. He was represented by private attorney and former Attorney General, Talauega Eleasalo Ale, while prosecuting the case was Robert Morrison III.
When the case was called, the government’s attorney informed the court that they had reached an agreement with the defense, and the defendant was going to enter a guilty plea to the single charge of violating requirements set by the government during the Governor’s declaration for the COVID-19 enforcement, a class A misdemeanor under the Public Health Emergency Acts 13.0323, punishable by imprisonment terms of up to one year, a fine of up to $1,000, or both.
With his guilty plea, Taveuveu admitted that on the early morning of Apr. 7, 2020 about 5:15a.m, he operated a bus with more than 10 passengers inside from the west side of the island to the cannery in Atu’u.
Taveuveu’s attorney, Ale added more facts to the case. He told the court that his client was expected to pick up his certificate from the government on that same day, to allow him to transport passengers for the cannery. However, the government office opens at 8a.m, but police pulled over his client’s bus at 5:15a.m.
Ale further stated to the court that his client’s bus traveled from Alataua District all the way to the cannery to drop employees for the cannery. After that trip, he went back home until he received his certificate later that same morning. Ale told the court that Taveuveu has received his certificate and he can now transport passengers from Alataua to the cannery at any time.
Judge Patea sentenced Taveuveu to 6 months probation under the conditions that he pay a $500 fine. However, the court deferred $450 and ordered Taveuveu to pay $50 within the next 30-day.
Since the COVID-19 enforcement kicked-off in March of this year, five people have been arrested and charged for failure to comply with requirements set by the government.
Out of five arrested, one case was dismissed last week for lack of prosecution, and three cases are still pending in court.
The three cases still pending include a businessman who owns a beauty salon in Faleniu and two male individuals who were arrested on a volleyball court across from Lupelele Elementary.