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Man who says he smokes meth for “strength” is sentenced to jail time, probation

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Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA —  A man from Samoa who pled guilty to meth possession is ordered to serve 20 months at the TCF as a condition of his 5-year probation sentence.

Taavili Iakopo appeared in High Court earlier this month for sentencing. He has been in custody since his arrest in February 2019, unable to post a $10,000 surety bond.

Iakopo was initially charged with one count of unlawful possession of methamphetamine; and one court of unlawful possession of marijuana — both felonies punishable by imprisonment of 5-10 years, a fine between $5,000- $20,000 or both.

Under a plea agreement accepted by the High Court last December, Iakopo pled guilty to the amended charge of unlawful possession of methamphetamine, a class D felony punishable by up to 5 years in jail, a fine of up to $5,000 or both.

Iakopo admits that on Feb. 11, 2019 he had on him, drugs and paraphernalia when police pulled over his vehicle for a traffic violation.

When given the chance to speak, Iakopo apologized and begged for a second chance so he can return home and care for his wife and kids. He told the court that his eldest son left for the military last month, leaving his wife and their 4 young kids at home.

With tears in his eyes, Iakopo said he’s remorseful and knows his kids really need him home.

Defense attorney Rob McNeill asked the court to adopt Probation’s recommendation in the Pre Sentence Report (PSR), and sentence Iakopo to probation. He said Iakopo is a first-time offender, and the drugs found on him were for personal use. Prosecutor Doug Lowe echoed the defense submission.

According to the court, Iakopo was pulled over because the light on his license plate was not on, and his turn signal wasn't flashing when he turned on to Iliili Road on the night of the incident.

When asked for his driver's license, Iakopo said he didn't have it on him, neither did he have any other form of ID. While speaking to Iakopo, an officer noticed a cut-up straw "commonly used to scoop meth” on the back seat of the vehicle.

Iakopo’s vehicle was driven by a cop to the Tafuna Substation where he was told that the vehicle was being impounded until someone with a valid driver's license comes to claim it.

An inventory of the vehicle netted a stamp-sized baggie with a small amount of a crystalline substance, which later tested positive as meth, on the floor behind the driver's seat.
During a body search, police discovered a stamp-sized baggie containing a crystalline substance inside Iakopo’s left pant pocket. In his right pocket, police found a glass pipe containing a crystalline substance which later tested positive as meth.

Iakopo admitted to police that he started smoking meth 6 months prior, because it “gives him strength to do his chores at home."

Iakopo was sentenced to 5 years imprisonment. Execution of sentence is suspended and he is placed on 5 years probation subject to several conditions. He has to serve 20 months at the TCF, credited the 11 months he has already served. Other conditions of probation require him to remain law abiding, and alcohol and drug free, and he has to pay a $1,000 fine.