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Judge Patea lashes out over Samoa Consulate response to overstayer

American Samoa District Court building

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — District Court Judge Elvis P. Patea did not mince words yesterday morning when he lashed out at what he described as the "government being chugged around" by the local office of the Samoa Consulate.

The remarks were made during a status hearing for Valentino Sam Chong a.k.a. Filipo Soane who pled guilty to public peace disturbance earlier this year and was subsequently sentenced to 24 months probation, under the condition that he depart the territory immediately and not return at any time during his probation term.

Assistant Public Defender Anna Whiles asked the court yesterday, to release Sam Chong to the custody of the Immigration Office. She said her client has already been incarcerated for more than 100 days for public peace disturbance and this may be a violation of his constitutional rights.

Judge Patea noted that Sam Chong's Immigration ID expired in June 2016 and he entered the territory on a 14-day permit. The judge also said that to his understanding, Sam Chong's sponsor has passed away. "Where is he going to stay?" Judge Patea asked. Whiles said her client has an uncle he can live with.

During sentencing last month, Judge Patea had ordered Immigration to get Sam Chong's travel documents and fare squared away, so he can be en route to Samoa sooner than later.

A certified copy of the court's judgment and order was to be sent to the Chief Immigration Officer so Sam Chong's name is on the lookout list at the territory's points of entry.

Fast forward several weeks later, and there is still no update on Sam Chong's travel documents. The court was informed, by Assistant Attorney General Jason Mitchell, that the hold up has to do with the local office of the Samoa Consulate.

"I don't appreciate" what I'm hearing, said Judge Patea with a stern look. It appears that the Samoa Consulate Office is "chugging the government around," he continued. "This is their citizen. What's the hold up?"

When asked about Sam Chong's passport — the one he used when he entered the territory — the court was told that the passport is still valid.

Samoa News understands that Sam Chong's passport and other documents, including the court's judgment and sentence, were all presented to the Samoa Consulate Office in Fagatogo.

"How do they refuse?" Judge Patea asked. "This is their citizen!"

He told prosecutor Mitchell to speak to the Attorney General "if you need to", and "bring the Chief Immigration Officer" in, if necessary. "If you need to involve the Governor's Office, do it." Judge Patea said the government should prepare Sam Chong's documents, and whatever paperwork involved and they should have Sam Chong's passport — which is still valid — attached to it.

"I'm not going to let him win by default because the Samoa Consulate is dragging its feet," Judge Patea said.

The matter is continued to May 30th.