Man sentenced to 5 yrs for meth possession after Petesa drug bust
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — One of the three defendants arrested after armed detectives of the DPS Vice & Narcotics Unit executed two search warrants earlier this year in June in Petesa and Tafuna is going to jail.
Sui Tago Jr, who has been in custody since his arrest, unable to post a $5,000 cash bond, appeared in High Court yesterday morning for sentencing where Acting Associate Justice Elvis P. Patea ordered him to serve 5 years at the Territorial Correctional Facility.
Tago Jr, 40, was represented by Public Defender Michael White, while prosecuting the case was Assistant Attorney General Laura Garvey.
Tago Jr was originally charged with one count of unlawful possession of a controlled substance, to wit; methamphetamine, a felony punishable by not less than five or more than ten years in jail, and a fine of not less than $5,000 or more than $20,000, or both.
However, in a plea agreement with the government last month, Tago Jr pled guilty to unlawful possession of a controlled substance, to wit; methamphetamine. With his guilty plea, Tago Jr admits that on June 28, 2018 he unlawfully possessed a baggie, which contained meth.
When given the chance to speak, Tago Jr apologized to the court, the American Samoa Government and also his family and village for his actions, and asked for another chance to return home to care for his elderly mother.
He said the time he spent in jail has taught him a good lesson — that breaking the law is not a good thing to do. He said he’s really remorseful and he promised that he will never break the law again.
“I promise your honor, that if I am given another chance, I will be a changed man and will comply with all the laws of the territory. I know what I did was wrong but I assure you that I am truly remorseful and want to go back home to see my mother,” Tago Jr said.
Neither of the two attorneys asked for any specific sentence, saying they both reviewed the Pre Sentence Report (PSR), and they feel that there is nothing more to add.
Before the judges deliberated on a decision, Patea asked some questions regarding the status of the other two co-defendants in Tago Jr’s case.
He also wanted to know what Tago Jr was doing inside the vehicle when police officers executed the court’s search warrant and later arrested him.
According to Garvey, the cases for the other two co-defendants, Henry O’Brien and Misi Siua, are still pending in court. O’Brien is scheduled to appear this morning for a Change of Plea hearing, while Siua’s case is set for jury trial on Aug. 21, 2021.
Garvey added that Tago Jr is scheduled to appear before Chief Justice Michael Kruse this Friday for a Revocation Hearing, because he was on probation when he was arrested for this case.
In delivering his decision, Patea informed Tago Jr that when the government filed the case against him, he was initially charged with a crime that could have sent him to the TCF for a minimum of 5 years and maximum of 10 years.
“You were provided with a huge break when a plea bargain with the government came before the court to conclude this matter, which gives you a sentence from zero (0) up to five years,” Patea pointed out.
“Now looking at the PSR and your record before this court, we notice that this court has provided you numerous breaks on three separate occasions — not from this panel but from this court.
“Now we learn that you were on probation when this offense was committed, which gives this court a sign that a probated sentence does not apply to you any more. Therefore, the court orders that you serve a period of imprisonment of 5 years at the TCF," Patea ruled.
He reminded Tago Jr that when the time is right for him to be released, he has to take it up with the Parole Board, not the Probation Office.
In 2009, Tago Jr was convicted of conspiracy to commit burglary and receiving stolen property, both class C felonies, punishable by imprisonment of up to seven years and a fine of up to $5,000 or both.
For each count, Tago Jr was ordered to serve detention of 28 months, which means, he had to serve a total of 56 months at the TCF, as a condition of his 14-year probation, which ends in 2023.
While he was on probation, Tago Jr was arrested when cops executed two search warrants in June in Petesa and Tafuna.
In June, police detectives executed a search warrant on a white pickup truck that was parked in front of a store in Tafuna. Three men were inside the truck — one of them was Tago Jr.
During a body search of Tago Jr., officers discovered a baggie containing meth in his front right pocket.
When asked what the baggie contained, Tago Jr said it was ice (aisa). He told police that the three of them inside the truck had gone to Vaitogi to deliver meth to another person earlier that day, and the person had bought $100 worth of meth from the owner of the truck, who was later identified as Misi Suia, one of the co-defendants in this case.
Tago Jr also told police that he had seen a lot of money and meth inside Siua’s black pouch while he was inside Siua’s vehicle. He said the baggie that was in his pocket was given to him by Siua, free of charge. He said he helped Siua sell meth for 4 months before they were caught, and Siua would sell the substance from his home in Petesa, or deliver meth if people didn't come to his home.
Siua is still in custody unable to post a $15,000 cash bond, while O’Brien was released on a $2,000 surety bond.