Man who is in and out of court for domestic violence is warned
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — “Violent acts against women and children in homes must be stopped.”
This was the message from Associate Justice Fiti Sunia when he delivered his decision in the case of Ethan Mauga, who appeared in court last week for sentencing, after being convicted of 3 different offenses, one of which involves domestic violence against his girlfriend, who is also the mother of his children.
Mauga, a firefighter, pled guilty to one count of private peace disturbance involving domestic violence, a class C misdemeanor; one count of criminal contempt, a class A misdemeanor; and one count of public peace disturbance, a class B misdemeanor.
During court proceedings, the victim was called to testify. She had requested to lift the “no contact” order between her and the defendant and allow him to return home to help her take care of the kids, as she also cares for her elderly father.
Defense attorney Ryan Anderson said his client is truly remorseful and wants to prove that he’s a changed man, adding that Mauga is a suitable candidate for a probated sentence.
Prosecutor Kristine Soule disagreed and asked to sentence Mauga to a period of detention, saying this isn’t the first time Mauga has been charged and convicted of domestic violence — involving the same victim.
According to Soule, Mauga appeared in District Court last year for 3 separate domestic cases involving the same victim. His first domestic violence conviction was a few years back, also involving the same victim.
Sunia pointed out that Mauga initially came before the High Court for a domestic violence matter involving his girlfriend, the lady who is pleading to the court to allow Mauga to come back home. After his first appearance in court, Mauga was released on his own recognizance subject to several conditions, including no direct or indirect with the victim and her children at any time. Four months months later, he was arrested again for circumstances related to the same lady, in a public place.
He was released on bond subject to the same conditions, that he shall not make any contact with the victim and her children. However, 5 months later, according to the court, Mauga was arrested and charged for threatening behavior against the same victim and her children.
Sunia noted from the prosecutor’s statement, that Mauga also has a record in District Court, where he was charged and convicted in 3 separate cases.
Sunia said they put together all of Mauga’s domestic violence cases from both the District Court and High Court, to get a clear picture of what kind of person he is. “…This defendant is a violent person against one lady, who came into court and pleaded for his return home. His violent acts against this lady and her children need to be stopped, and the law has now stepped up to stop his violent habit,” Sunia said.
Referring to the case, Sunia said this is what happens when the powerful prey upon the weak. The weak person, according to him, came to court and pled for a chance to allow the ‘prey’ to return home to assist her in caring for her children, despite the fact that this weak person understands the danger she is facing if the defendant returns home.
“This evil behavior will end. The safety of the mother and her children is our first priority,” Sunia said.
Mauga was sentenced to 15 days imprisonment and a $300 fine for private peace disturbance involving domestic violence. He was also sentenced to 6 months in jail and a $500 fine for public peace disturbance. For criminal contempt, he was sentenced to one year behind bars and a $1,000 fine.
The sentences are to run consecutively; however, execution of sentence is suspended and Mauga is placed on probation for 24 months subject to several conditions. He is to serve 90 days at the TCF, credited the 78 days he’s served in pretrial confinement. He is also to pay a $1,000 fine.
The ‘no contact’ condition is still in place, and the court will revisit this condition if they feel the victim and her children’s lives are no longer in danger. “Mr. Mauga, these two gentlemen beside me are the reason you’re on probation,” Sunia said, referring to Chief Associate Judge Mamea Sala Jr and Associate Judge Tunupopo Alalafaga.
“The next time you come before this court or any other court in American Samoa for domestic violence, there will no more talking between us. You will go to jail,” Sunia said. “It’s your call to choose where to go from here. Our call is to go straight to TCF.”