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Man spent 346 days at TCF so far waiting for hearing appearance

Territorial Correctional Facility, TCF
His case fell through the ‘cracks’ while waiting for an OSC hearing

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA —  An inmate who was held at the Territorial Correctional Facility (TCF) for 346 days awaiting an Order to Show Cause (OSC) hearing appeared in High Court yesterday.

Assistant Public Defender Rob McNeill represented Pulumu Fitita, who is not new to the court system, while prosecuting the case was Assistant Attorney General Laura Garvey.

When Fifita’s case was called, McNeill explained that his client’s case fell through the cracks and was never brought to court after an OSC was issued back in December 2017.

McNeill said the court sentenced his client in November 2016 to 20 months imprisonment and 5 years probation for burglarizing a home in Leone. As a condition of probation, the defendant was ordered to be law abiding and not consume alcohol. The court further ordered that Fifita serve only 6 months, and the remaining 14 months would be stayed.

Fifita was released from TCF in April 2017 and was ordered to seek gainful employment. A few months later, police arrested Fifita again for public peace disturbance (involving alcohol), and he remained in custody for over 3 months until he was sentenced in December 2017 to time served, after a PPD conviction.

He was served with a copy of his OSC from the High Court the same date he was sentenced in District Court, which was December 2017 and was scheduled to appear in High Court the following week.

However, since December 2017, Fifita has been in custody, waiting to appear for the OSC hearing.

Last week when McNeill visited his clients at TCF, Fifita approached him and informed him regarding his situation.

McNeill consulted with the prosecutor and the Clerk of the Court, and Fifita’s case was on the court’s calendar yesterday.

McNeill told the court that his client has admitted to the probation violation and asked to set the case for a Disposition hearing. The prosecutor said if the defendant admitted to the violation, the government would recommend a sentence of 346 days in jail, which is time served, and put him back on probation.

Chief Justice Michael Kruse smiled and said probation is the court’s call. He also reminded both parties that the defendant is on probation for 5 years, and 5 years is over 1,800 days, not 346.

Fifita is scheduled to appear in court May 31 for a Disposition hearing.