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Man gets probation, jail time — If he had presented an airline ticket, the court would’ve let him leave

American Samoa High Court building

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — A young man convicted of stealing equipment belonging to the government and later violating local drug laws is going to jail. Gaupule Fulu was ordered to serve 20 months at the TCF as a condition of his 5-year probation.

Fulu, who has been in custody since his arrest, unable to post a $10,000 surety bond, appeared before Associate Justice Fiti Sunia this week for sentencing.

The government charged Fulu in two separate cases: first degree burglary and stealing in the first case, and unlawful possession of methamphetamine in the second case.

But under a plea agreement with the government, Fulu pled guilty to stealing and the amended charge of unlawful possession of meth. Fulu admits that on July 20, 2019, he entered government property in Tafuna and took off with equipment, which he later sold to another man for drugs.

Two days later, on July 22nd when he was arrested for the stealing case, cops found on him two glass pipes containing methamphetamine.

When given the chance to speak, Fulu, a US citizen, apologized and asked for forgiveness. He said spending over 5 months in prison has taught him a good lesson. He asked the court to allow him to depart the territory and return to the U.S. where his parents reside, so he can find a job and care for them. He said he prefers living in the U.S. than in American Samoa.

Attorneys from both sides asked for probation.

Before ruling on the case, Sunia told defense attorney Rob McNeill that based on the information, the court believes American Samoa is the best place for his client to live. However, if there is a return airline ticket for Fulu to return to the U.S., the court will suspend its sentence and allow him to return to his parents.

Fulu was sentenced to 5 years imprisonment. Execution of sentence is suspended and he is placed on probation for 5 years subject to several conditions. He shall serve 20 months at the TCF, credited the time he spent in pretrial confinement.

Sunia told Fulu and his attorney that if there was a ticket presented to the court during sentencing, the court would have no problem putting him on the next plane.