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Man whose wife tuned him in for having a pot plant serves 11 months — so far


Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — A man convicted for violating local drug laws was released from the Territorial Correctional Facility (TCF) last month after the court decided that the 11 months he served while awaiting the outcome of his case is sufficient for the crime he committed.

Vaalele Pauli appeared in Court last month for sentencing. Pauli was initially charged with unlawful possession of marijuana. But a plea agreement with the government, accepted by the court, allowed Pauli to plead guilty to a lesser, amended charge, a class D felony, punishable by up to 5 years in jail, a fine of up to $5,000 or both.

In court last month, Pauli admitted that on May 22, 2021, he unlawful possessed marijuana.

He apologized to the court for his action saying that he had learned his lesson and realized that being separated from his wife and children is very hard for a person like him who worked really hard to build his family from nothing to something. He also apologized to his wife and family for his wrongdoing and asked for their forgiveness.

Defense attorney asked the court for a probated sentence without any additional period of detention. He told the court that his client is a first time offender and has served over 11 months in jail.

Defense attorney further told the court that his client was arrested during a domestic incident involving his wife, however, when police arrived at their house, his wife escorted police to the back of the house and showed them a marijuana plant growing inside his client’s plantation. The wife told police that the marijuana plant belonged to the defendant.

The defendant’s defense attorney told the court that his client does not own the house nor the land where the marijuana plant was located. He had nothing to do with the plant, and it was already growing there before his client and his family moved into the house.

Prosecutor echoed the defense’s submission and asked for a probated sentence for the defendant, saying that he is a suitable candidate for probation.

After reviewing facts of the case, the court sentenced Pauli to a term of imprisonment of 5 years. Execution of imprisonment was suspended and the defendant was placed on probation for a period of 5 years subject to several conditions.

He is to serve 20 months at the TCF, and is credited for the 11 months he already served. The balance of detention will be stayed until further order of court. The defendant was released and was given 90 days to seek and secure gainful employment to pay his $2,000 fine.

If he’s unable to secure employment within the 90 days, the court ordered the defendant to report back to the TCF to serve the remaining period of detention — 9  months.

The court also ordered the defendant to not consume alcohol or illegal drugs, and not congregate with people involved in consuming alcohol and illegal drugs. He’s subject to random testing to make sure he’s in compliance for the stay clean condition of his probation.