Man on island for family funeral charged with assault and drug possession
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — A 45-year-old man accused of assaulting a man in Mapusaga Fou by using a metal pipe to strike the victim’s head was arrested last month and made his initial appearance in District Court. During his arrest, police discovered illegal drugs in his possession.
Lautala Fiso, who was sentenced to 5 years probation for assaulting a taxi driver in 2010 is charged with one count of unlawful possession of methamphetamine, an unclassified felony, punishable by a term of imprisonment from 5-10 years, a fine of up to $20,000, or both; along with one count of second degree assault, a class D felony, punishable by up to 5 years in jail, a fine of up to $5,000 or both.
Bond is set at $15,000.
If Fiso is able to post bond, he is ordered to remain law abiding, not leave or attempt to leave the territory without the court’s permission, and he is not to make any direct or indirect contact with the government’s witnesses, including the victim.
Public Defender, Michael White asked the court to reduce his client’s bond to $5,000, arguing that Fiso is not a flight risk.
Prosecutor, Robert Morrison III opposed the motion, saying Fiso is married and lives with his wife and children in the States and he only came to the territory for his sister’s funeral. The government’s attorney believes Fiso is a flight risk and he must be kept in prison until his case is resolved.
After reviewing submission from both parties, the court agreed and denied the motion to reduce bond.
White then informed the court that his client wishes to waive his rights to a preliminary hearing, and the case is now bound over to High Court where Fiso appeared last week for arraignment and entered a not guilty plea to all the charges against him.
His pretrial conference is set to June 20th.
According to the government, it was around 12:22 a.m on Apr. 12, 2021 that a male phoned the Tafuna Police Substation to report that they were transporting to the LBJ Hospital, an injured male who was assaulted in Mapusaga Fou during a drinking session.
The victim was a 33-year-old man from Petesa who is married with four young children.
A few hours later, around 1:48 a.m., two female individuals, who are also the main witnesses, walked into the TPS to make written statements regarding the matter.
According to the government, the two witnesses and Fiso picked up the victim from his work place, and they ended up having a drinking session at the home of the two females in Mapusaga Fou. The two females are cousins and they are the only two people living at the house.
A little after midnight, one of the females got into a verbal argument with the victim. The argument started after the victim accused one of the females of doing drugs (meth). The female strongly denied the victim’s allegation saying that she has never done drugs in her whole entire life.
Fiso, who was in the kitchen heard the conversation and immediately came to the front and told the victim he shouldn’t talk to his cousin like that, however, the victim told Fiso that he was trying to give good advice to his female cousin because he doesn’t want her life to be ruined by drugs.
The drinking session continued.
Ten minutes later, a second argument between the victim and the same female erupted when the female accused the victim of selling drugs at his work place. Both the victim and the female were drunk. The victim pulled the female down and choked her neck. The second female individual jumped in to help her female cousin.
At this time, Fiso was in the kitchen cooking; but the argument between the two females and the victim escalated.
One of the female witnesses told police that when Fiso walked to the front from the kitchen, she saw him holding a metal pipe about 6ft and he struck the victim with it, once on the head and twice on the back.
She yelled out to Fiso to stop what he was doing while at the same time reached out to her phone to call 911 for assistance.
The victim was immediately transported to the hospital via a private vehicle, en route to meet up with an EMS unit.
Investigators apprehended Fiso at a friend’s home in Leone and he was transported to the Leone Substation (LPS) for questioning. Before Fiso was transported to the LPS for questioning, he was patted down and officers discovered a glass pipe containing white crystalline substance inside.
When questioned by investigators, Fiso confirmed what the main witnesses told police. He further told investigators that the victim is his female cousin’s co-worker and he often came to his cousin’s house to hang around.
According to Fiso’s statement to police, they were enjoying themselves and having fun at the house, until later on in the night, a verbal argument erupted between the victim and one of his female cousins. The victim accused his female cousin of doing drugs. Fiso said he ignored the argument by searching for songs on YouTube while preparing food for them.
According to Fiso, the victim and his cousin continued to argue and he eventually got up and walked back to the kitchen to check his cooking. He said that when he returned, the argument got louder and he heard the victim shouting profanities at his female cousin. The victim also pulled his cousin down and choked her on the neck.
He said he feared that his cousin was being harmed by the victim’s actions, so he grabbed a metal pipe that was on the table at the kitchen and struck the victim’s head from behind. He also stuck him in the back twice.
Afterwards, Fiso said, the victim sat back down but he fell forward off the chair.
He told police that he immediately froze up and regretted what he had done to the victim. Fiso said his two female cousins flipped the victim over on his back and started mouth-to-mouth in tandem with chest compressions.
During that time, the victim was snoring and groaning, blood was dripping from his head area because of a laceration on the top part of his skull.
Fiso told investigators that when the victim was transported to the hospital, he was still shocked about what had happened and started walking to his other cousin in Pavaivai who transported him to the house in Leone where he hid from police.
When questioned about the glass pipe containing meth found in his possession, Fiso told police that he found the glass pipe lying on the floor after they transported the victim’s body in a private vehicle to the LBJ Hospital. He further stated to police that he had a feeling that the glass pipe belongs to the victim.
He said he picked up the glass pipe and put it in his pocket however, he totally forgot to get rid of it.
According to a doctor’s report, the victim sustained a depressed skull fracture, which required 9 staples to close. Moreover, the victim was also referred to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) for further observation.
Fiso was ordered to serve 20 months at the Territorial Correctional Facility (TCF) as a condition of his 5 years probation after being convicted of second degree assault. Fiso’s conviction stemmed from an incident that occurred on Jan. 02, 2010 during a drinking session with his friends where he assaulted a man by striking his head with an empty beer bottle.