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High Court satisfied there is probable cause druggie violated probation

[SN file photo]
Despite violations happening almost 3 years after his probation ended

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The High Court is satisfied there is probable cause that Tolupo Hodges violated several conditions of a probation sentence that was ordered by the court in 2010.

The decision by Chief Justice Michael Kruse was based on the testimony from one government witness, who was called to the stand to testify during a Preliminary Examintaion (PX) hearing yesterday morning.

Hodges, who was convicted of unlawful possession of the controlled substance, to wit; methamphetamine, is accused of violating conditions of his probation, after police found drug paraphernalia inside his truck and home.

During his testimony, Det. Ioane Paselio told the court the defendant’s vehicle was stopped in front of the Fagaitua Substation on May 18, 2017.

He said a search warrant dated May 12, 2017 was issued to search the defendant’s vehicle and his Alofau home, along with two tents in front of his house.

After explaining to the defendant the purpose of the traffic stop, police searched the vehicle, while the defendant was present.

The search netted drug paraphernalia such as empty plastic baggies (the type used to sell methamphetamine), and a pair of scissors (which is often used to burn the plastic baggies). The search was then moved to the defendant’s home in Alofau.

But prior to the search being conducted, Paselio told the court Hodges had informed police that he had a glass pipe inside the pocket of his jacket, which was hanging inside one of the tents in front of his home.

Police proceeded to the defendant’s home and found the glass pipe. They also found numerous drug paraphernalia, such as cut straws and empty plastic baggies, in addition to live ammunition.

According to Paselio, when police asked Hodges about the drug paraphernalia they found found in his vehicle and his home, Hodges said it was the same drug paraphernalia that was in his home when police searched his house a few years ago.

Prosecutor Woodrow Pengelly asked the witness whether Hodges' statement was true, and Paselio replied, no. All the drug paraphernalia they found at the defendant’s home during their first search - in May 2017 - was seized and taken to the DPS evidence room.

During cross examination, defense attorney Public Defender Douglas Fiaui asked the witness whether he had brought with him to court the copy of the search warrant or any of the drug paraphernalia they claim to have found in his client’s truck and home. Paselio replied, “No”.

“So the court’s decision will be based only on your verbal testimony this morning,” Fiau asked Paselio, who replied, “Yes, counsel.”

In closing, Pengelly told the court the government has filed new allegations against Hodges for violating conditions of his probation by possessing drug paraphernalia and also live ammunition.

Pengelly further stated that based on the testimony of the government’s witness, police found numerous drug paraphernalia at the defendant’s home and inside his vehicle. This, according to the prosecutor, indicated that he was still engaged in illegal drug activities.

Fiaui on the other hand told the court that the government did not present to the court any evidence to prove the new allegations against his client. There was no copy of the search warrant, nor any evidence of drug paraphernalia they alleged were found in his possession.

He further told the court that his client was sentenced by the court in Sept. 2010 for unlawful possession of methamphetamine and was placed on probation for 5 years, but the government’s new allegation was filed in May 2017 — almost 3 years after his probation  expired.

In delivering the court's decision, Kruse stated that under Rule 5.1, a PX hearing could be based on an officer’s hearsay testimony. He added that there is no need for a copy of the search warrant, nor any evidence to be presented to the court during a probable cause hearing.

In the end, the court was satisfied that there was probable cause that the defendant violated conditions of his probation.

The matter is now set for another hearing on May 18, 2018. Hodges is remanded to custody to await his next court appearance.