Kruse: The court does not run the prison”
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Chief Justice Michael Kruse made it clear to attorneys handling the matters of two inmates who appeared in High Court last week for a Disposition Hearing for failure to comply with conditions of their probation that the court doesn’t run the Territorial Correctional Facility (TCF).
Last month during a revocation hearing, the court found probable cause that both Sierra Isaia and Sonny Mu Kelemete violated conditions of their probation after the government presented evidence in their cases. Evidence showed that Sierra Isaia tested positive for meth, while Sonny Mu Kelemete was not present for a drug test upon demand from Probation Officers on Mar. 4, 2021.
When given the chance to address the court, defense attorney, Assistant Public Defender, Ryan Anderson asked the court not to revoke his clients’ probation but to modify it. Anderson further asked the court for another option to make sure the court can closely monitor his clients while on probation and to make sure the TCF is a drug free place for all inmates serving their detention including his clients.
After reading the Pre Sentence Report (PSR), Anderson suggested that one of the options the court should consider is to suspend visitation by family members every weekend. He said that according to many reports he received, weekend visitation is one of the ways drugs enter TCF.
In Isaia’s case, Anderson asked the court to modify conditions of his probation while he is continuing to serve his detention. In Kelemete’s case who was not present for a drug test upon demand from Probation Officers, Anderson told the court that his client admitted to him that he refused to submit himself for the drug test. The defense attorney said that revoking Kelemete’s probation would help him and what is going on at TCF.
Prosecutor, Assistant Attorney General, Kristine Soule echoed the defense’s submission and asked the court not to revoke both defendant’s probations but modify the terms and conditions while still serving their detention at TCF.
The court ordered that the disposition hearing for both defendants be continued for two weeks, to allow more time for both parties to present to the court something meaningful regarding the new option of probation to which they’re referring.
The court told both parties that the court does not run the prison.
It further stated that in the past, the court during sentencing denied trustee service for probationers who are serving detention at TCF. However, that is different from the request to stop visitation by families of inmates.
The court wanted both parties to present something more meaningful as to why the court should not revoke probation for both defendants. Another thing the court mentioned was the high wall surrounding TCF. The rear area of the wall is accessible by a tall person.
Isaia and Kelemete are scheduled to appear in court on July 2nd for their disposition hearing.
Kelemete is serving an imprisonment sentence of 40 months as a condition of his ten years probation after being convicted of unlawful possession of meth and unlawful possession of meth with the intent to distribute. His conviction stems from an incident where cops found drugs and a firearm in his vehicle during a stop for a traffic violation.
Isaia, 42 is serving 80 months at TCF after being convicted of two counts of unlawful possession of meth. On August 2017, cops found a glass pipe containing meth in Isaia’s possession. Four months later after being released from custody for his first case, Isaia was arrested again in December 2017 after cops again found a glass pipe containing meth in his possession.
In May of last year, Isaia appeared in court for a probation violation hearing. The government alleged that Isaia refused to submit himself for a drug test after two Probation officers visited TCF to conduct drug testing for several inmates including Isaia.