More drug defendants appear in court
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — A man convicted of violating local drug laws has been given another chance by the court. Sione Siolo appeared in High Court last week for sentencing. He has been in custody since his arrest on May 19, 2019 unable to post a $5,000 surety bond.
Siolo was initially charged with one count of unlawful possession of marijuana, a felony punishable by 5-10 years in jail, a fine of $5,000-$20,000, or both. But under a plea agreement with the government last month, he pled guilty to the lesser charge of unlawful possession of marijuana, a class D felony, punishable by a up to 5 years in jail, a fine of up to $5,000, or both.
Siolo admits that on May 19th, he had on him a marijuana hand rolled cigarette when cops came to arrest him for disturbing the public peace in front of a Mesepa store.
Siolo was in court 2 weeks ago for sentencing but due to his illegal immigration status, the hearing was continued and his sponsor was ordered to be present, along with a representative from Immigration.
When given the chance to speak, Siolo apologized and begged for a second chance to return home to care for his family, especially his wife and 4 kids. He told the court that sleeping in prison for over 8 months is not a good thing, knowing his wife and kids are sleeping alone.
Despite his illegal immigration status, attorneys from both sides asked the court to sentence Siolo to probation, which’ll allow him to find a job and provide for his family. The prosecutor asked to release Siolo to Immigration so they can work on renewing his status.
The prosecutor added that he spoke to 2 senior immigration officers who told him they are working with Siolo’s sponsor to address his situation.
The court sentenced Siolo to 5 years in jail. Execution of sentences is suspended and he is placed on probation for 5 years under the condition that he serves 8 months at the TCF. He is credited 8 months for pretrial confinement.
Siolo was released from TCF to the custody of Immigration. He was ordered to secure a job within 90 days of release.
Motusaga Laulu, 34, who has been in custody since his arrest last year, unable to post a $5,000 surety bond, appeared in High Court this week for a Change of Plea hearing.
Laulu was a bus driver when police arrested him on Apr. 30, 2019
He was initially charged with one count of unlawful possession of methamphetamine, a felony punishable by imprisonment between 5-10 years, a fine between $5,000-$20,000 or both. But under a plea agreement with the government, accepted by the court, Laulu pled guilty to a lesser amended charge, a class D felony punishable by up to 5 years in jail, a fine of not more than $5,000 or both.
Sentencing is Feb. 7, 2020.
Defense attorney Rob McNeill asked the court to release his client on his own recognizance, after the court accepted the plea agreement. There was no objection from the prosecutor. The court then ordered Laulu to be released to the custody of the Chief Probation Officer for testing, to see if he’s drug and alcohol free, and to ensure he’s in compliance with Immigration laws.
Laulu was subsequently released. His drug test was negative and his ID is still valid.
A probationer who tested positive for meth last Friday is now in custody, after District Court Judge Elvis P. Patea revoked his release.
Tino Taai was sentenced to 12 months probation after he was convicted of third degree assault in May 2019. Conditions of probation include monthly Probation visits, paying a $140 fine, and remaining drug and alcohol free.
The court had ordered Taai to appear Dec. 30th, 2019 for his first probation review. When he failed to show, a bench warrant for his arrest was issued.
Taai was arrested and appeared in court Jan. 2nd, after which he was released on his own recognizance. Before Taai left the premises, Patea ordered Probation to drug test him, to see if he was complying with conditions of probation.
The test came back positive for meth and a second OSC was issued by the court, for which Taai appeared last Friday. When Taai’s case was called, Patea ordered Probation to test Taai prior to the start of court proceedings.
Again, Taai tested positive for meth.
Taai’s case is continued. A preliminary hearing (PX) for his second OSC is Jan. 24th.
In the meantime, he is back in custody on a ‘no bail’ status.