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Henry O’Brien bound over for trial in Petesa drug raid case

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by Ausage Fausia

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The preliminary examination (PX) for the second defendant in the Petesa drug raid last June where cops allegedly found a glass pipe containing a small quantity of methamphetamine took place yesterday afternoon, with District Court Judge Fiti Sunia finding probable cause to bind Henry O’Brien over on a one single charge of unlawful possession of methamphetamine.

In delivering his decision Sunia pointed out that despite strong opposition from the defense team, claiming that the lead investigator was not the one who did the primary search on O’Brien, it was clear from the evidence that the other police detectives who conducted the searched found the glass pipe in the defendant’s possession.

Prosecuting the case was Assistant Attorney General Jason Mitchell, while Assistant Public Defender Ryan Anderson represented the defendant, who is out on a $2,500 cash bond.

During yesterday’s PX, the government called one witness, Police Det. John Seumanutafa who led the investigation in this case.

According to Seumanutafa, it was June 25, 2018 when he obtained a copy of a search warrant signed by the court, authorizing any police officer to conduct a search on a home in Petesa owned by a person by the name of Misi Siua, along with several vehicles with plate numbers #6549, #5212, #7244, registered to a person by the name of O’Brien, and another person by the name of Sili Kelemete. The main purpose of the search was to look for illegal drugs.

On June 28, Seumanutafa, along with several detectives of the DPS Vice & Narcotics Unit executed the search warrant. Around 5:45 p.m. on the same date, police spotted the silver pick-up vehicle with the plate #7244 in Tafuna, driven by the defendant.

The vehicle was pulled over and the driver, who is now the defendant in this case was informed about the reason why his vehicle was stopped.

According to Seumanutafa, he was not present when O’Brien’s vehicle was pulled over and searched by police.

Mitchell asked the witness who conducted the search of O’Brien’s vehicle, and the witness responded that it was Det. Jimmy Sitagata and another detective. During the search, Det. Sitagata allegedly found a glass pipe containing a small quantity of methamphetamine inside the front right pocket of O’Brien’s pants.

“Where were you when O’Brien’s vehicle was stopped and searched,” Mitchell asked the witness. Seumanutafa responded that he was at the Tafuna Police Station, interviewing other male individuals who were brought in by police for questioning as part of their search on that day.

After the search was completed, Det. Sitagata turned over the glass pipe to Seumanutafa at the Tafuna Police Station. He then conducted a test, which turned out positive for methamphetamine.

During cross-examination, defense attorney Anderson asked the witness for his whereabouts during the search on O’Brien’s vehicle, the witness stated that he was at the Tafuna Police Station.

“So, that means you were not present during the search?” Anderson asked the witness. He responded, “That is correct counsel.”

“Who gave you the glass pipe that was allegedly found in my client’s possession?” Anderson asked the witness. Seumanutafa said, “It was Det. Sitagata who turned over the glass pipe to me.”

Anderson then asked the witness, whether his client’s vehicle was impounded after the search, and Seumanu stated, “No counsel, the vehicle was released back to O’Brien’s family when the search was completed.”

It was at that time when Samoa News overhead a woman who was sitting in the court room saying in a whispered tone, “He’s lying.”

A court marshal walked over to where the woman was sitting and instructed her not to make noise while the court is in session.

During final submission, the government’s attorney asked the court to bind over O’Brien’s case to the High Court, as sufficient evidence had been presented.

Anderson on the other hand argued that the government failed to present sufficient evidence to bind his client’s case over to the High Court. He stated to the court that the government’s only witness was not present during the search. He also told the court that it was not clear how the glass pipe was transported from the scene where his client’s vehicle was searched to the Tafuna Police Station where the government’s only witness was located.

Judge Sunia said the hearing is to determine if there is sufficient evidence and if there is probable cause to try the defendant in court. He then ruled that the court is satisfied with evidence presented by the government that a crime was probably committed.

O’Brien is scheduled to appear in High Court tomorrow morning at 9a.m. for his arraignment.