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High Court sentences Maxey to detention time and off island drug treatment

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — A young woman who stole money from her former employer last year by forging her boss’s signature on three checks is going to jail, but will be released to attend an off island drug treatment program if it’s arranged by her family, who would also pay for it.

Twenty-three-year-old Nicole T. Maxey, who has been dealing with a drug addiction problem for over three years was sentenced by the High Court last Friday to a period of detention of 28 months at the Territorial Correctional Facility (TCF).

Maxey, who was out on a $5,000 surety bond was ordered by the court to report to TCF by 4 p.m. last Friday to start serving her detention.

The American Samoa government initially charged the former employee of CSL Cargo Services in two separates criminal cases. In case #56-17, Maxey was charged with stealing and forgery; both class C felonies. In case #54-17, she was also charged with stealing and forgery, also both class C felonies.

However, under a plea agreement with the government, accepted by the court, Maxey pled guilty to the charge of forgery in each criminal case.

In her plea, Maxey admits that on about Apr. 23, 2017 in American Samoa, she stole money from her former employer by forging signatures on three checks from CSL Cargo Services that she took without permission, and cashing them for personal use. The checks were made out to her and were in the amounts of $650, $650 and $375.

Maxey further admitted that on May 16, 2017, she made a check out to herself and cashed it for $632. The told the court that she did not have permission or authorization to issue or cash the checks.

Maxey appeared before Acting Associate Justice Elvis P. Patea for sentencing. David Vargas represented the defendant, while Assistant Attorney General Christy Dunn was the prosecutor.

When given the chance to speak, Maxey apologized to the court for her actions and asked for forgiveness and a chance to change her life.

“A lot of bad things happened to me when I started taking drugs. There is no excuse for my actions and I take full responsibility for what I have done. I stole money from my employer and my parent to buy drugs. I used drugs and couldn’t get away from it. It ruined my life and it destroyed who I am,” Maxey told the court.

She told the court that when she started using drugs, she began a relationship and it went bad and sometimes he hurt her. She asked the court to help her find a new path to a good future.

Before counsel Vargas present his submission to the court for Maxey, he called Dr. Jane Anderson, a Clinical Psychologist at the LBJ Hospital to the stand, to testify on the outcome of the psychological evaluation she performed on the defendant.

Anderson, who has been a licensed Psychologist since 2002, told the court that during her meetings with Maxey (eight times in four weeks) it became evident Maxey used methamphetamine for over 3 years and it has affected her life.

Anderson revealed to the court that Maxey’s drug use has been ongoing for years and caused her to have relationships with men who are also drug users.

“She used money she stole from her mother to buy drugs for herself and for her men friends who also used drugs. It’s my opinion that Maxey is a suitable candidate for a drug counseling program,” Anderson told the court.

During the time Maxey was using drugs, according to Anderson, she was not living with her parent, but with her boyfriend who also used drugs. Anderson stated that there were reports of physical abuse by the boyfriend against Maxey but she did not see any proof — such as bruises on her body to show that she was physically abused during the relationship.

“Her drug problem also affects her relationship with her family especially her mother. During the time she was living with her boyfriend, her mother had to lock her house especially her room to make sure all of her belongings, including her credit cards, were secure from Maxey,” Anderson stated to the court.

After speaking to her during the eight times they met, Anderson told the court that it was her opinion that Maxey needs an inpatient treatment program for drug counseling. She recommended to the court that the drug counseling program would only be available off island and Maxey agrees that if the court would allow her to attend that drug counseling program, she and her family would pay for the program.

Anderson further stated to the court that confinement is the best option for Maxey at this time until they secure a treatment program for her off island.

There’s also a lot of concern about her safety and the relationship with her boyfriend.

Associate Judge Paepae I. Faiai asked the doctor to explain to the court other problems she discovered during her evaluation of the defendant. Anderson stated to the court that in addition to Maxey’s substance abuse problem, she also is clinically depressed and needs treatment for this as well.

The doctor told the court that some of the organizations she contacted in Hawai’i about a treatment program include the Salvation Army, a Hawai’i hospital and also the Teen Challengers Program. They offer inpatient drug abuse counseling programs for up to three months.

Vargas echoed Anderson’s recommendation and asked the court to adopt the doctor’s recommendation.

“The help she needs is not found on island and her family needs to step up and assist her. I ask the court to detain Maxey at this time until we secure a treatment program off island to treat her drug problem. And if we find a program, I’ll ask the court to please allow her to attend that program off island,” Vargas told the court.

Prosecutor Dunn told the court that Maxey is a suitable candidate for a probated sentence. She also supported the recommendation from the doctor to detain the defendant until a treatment program is secured for her.

Dunn also asked the court to order the defendant to serve a period of detention at TCF first, before allowing her to attend her treatment program off island. In that way, she will learn a lesson that living in prison in not a good thing in life, and it will motivate her to attend and complete her drug treatment program.

Before the court delivered its sentence, Patea stated that after reviewing with his Associate Judges Paepae and Su’apaia Pereira the doctor’s testimony and recommendation, the court believes this is right decision for the defendant at this time.

Patea stated that the court followed the doctor’s testimony and they believe that the defendant has a drug problem that needs to be addressed. The court then suspended the execution of sentencing and placed the defendant on probation for 7 years under the following conditions. She was ordered to serve a period of detention of 28 months at TCF.

However, once a drug abuse treatment program off island is secured for her, she will immediately be released from jail and go off island to attend that drug program. If the defendant fails to attend and complete the drug abuse treatment program, the court will consider it a violation of probation.

“Maxey, this is your chance and we want you to utilize this opportunity the court has given you to attend and complete this treatment program. It’s for your own benefit, and if you don’t use it, the last option for you is TCF,” Patea told the defendant.