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Man pleads in drug case awaits sentencing — other High Court cases continued

American Samoa High Court building

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The 58-year-old man charged with unlawful possession of methamphetamine after he was caught smoking ice in the LBJ Hospital parking lot appeared in High Court yesterday for a Change of Plea (COP) hearing.

Onosa’i Navelika, who has been in custody since his arrest last December, is represented by Assistant Public Defender Rob McNeill while prosecuting is Assistant Attorney General Laura Garvey.

Navelika was initially charged with unlawful possession of methamphetamine. But a plea agreement with the government, accepted by the court, allowed Navelika to plead guilty to a lesser amended charge, a class D felony, punishable by up to 5 years in jail, and a fine of up to $5,000 or both.

With his guilty plea, Navelika admits that on Dec. 26, 2018, while sitting inside his vehicle at the LBJ parking lot, he smoked methamphetamine so he could stay awake. He also admits that the meth was in a glass pipe that was in his possession.

Chief Justice Michael Kruse asked Navelika if he was under the influence of illegal drugs or alcohol. The defendant said “Alcohol.”

When Kruse asked when was the last time he consumed alcohol, Navelika was silent for few seconds before he said, “December of last year.”

“As of right now, as you sit beside your defense attorney, are you under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs?” Navelika smiled and replied, “Not today, but in December.”

Kruse also smiled.

After the court accepted Navelika’s guilty plea, Kruse ordered that he be released on his own recognizance — but only if he tests negative for illegal drugs.

Samoa News understands the test came back negative and Navelika was released to await sentencing, which is set for April 22.


Because inmates were brought late to court yesterday, all matters that were scheduled to be heard before Chief Justice Michael Kruse were continued until Wednesday next week.

Kruse’s calendar for this week has a starting time of 8:30am, because Associate Justice Fiti Sunia is handling the Siaumau jury trial — which starts at 9am — for the rest of the week.

One of yesterday's scheduled cases was the sentencing of three inmates who were convicted of escape from confinement. They are: Ryan Pite, Joe Togitogi, and Joseph Iakopo.

When the case was called, none of the three defendants were in court. Kruse then told Assistant Attorney General Laura Garvey, who was in the courtroom, that it’s her job to make sure TCF inmates are in court before they start. He said this is not the first time this has happened.