Overstayer with complicated arrest history due to be deported later this year
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Defense attorney for Vincent Lafai — convicted for violating local drug laws — told the court during sentencing of his client last week, that there are facilities that can help people with a drug problem but the Territorial Correctional Facility (TCF) is not one of them.
Lafai, an overstayer with a long criminal history appeared in court last week for sentencing and disposition for violating conditions of an earlier probation.
The defendant, who has been in custody since his arrest in the beginning of last year unable to post bond, was originally charged with one count of possession of a controlled substance, to wit; methamphetamine (meth), a felony punishable by not less than five or more than ten years in jail, and a fine of not less than $5,000 or more than $20,000, or both.
However, in a plea agreement with the government, Lafai pled guilty to a lesser charge of unlawful possession of a controlled substance, to wit; meth. With his guilty plea, Lafai admits that on Feb. 20th, 2020 he unlawfully possessed a glass pipe containing meth.
When given the chance to address the court, the defendant apologized for his action and begged for one more chance to return home to care for his wife and four children. He told the court that he has wasted many years behind bars due the bad choices he made. He said that he came into American Samoa over 20 years ago to find a better future for him and his family in Samoa.
While in American Samoa, God blessed him and gave him a beautiful family with four young precious children. He worked hard as a father to fulfill his responsibility as a parent for many years until two years ago when he started hanging out with wrong crowd — people who used alcohol and drugs almost everyday of their lives.
The defendant told the court that the time he spent in custody while awaiting the outcome of his case taught him a good lesson in life. He also apologized to his wife and children for failing to do his part.
The defense attorney asked the court to sentence Lafai to a probated sentence without any additional period of detention. He said his client has served many months at the TCF since his arrest in the beginning of last year. He also stated to the court that the glass pipe that was found in his client’s possession contained only a small amount of meth.
He informed the court that his client has a drug problem that needs to be addressed and this drug problem continues to cause damage to his life. He also stated to the court that there are facilities that can help people with drug problems but TCF is not one of them. He further stated that the TCF is over-crowded with people serving detention for drug convictions.
However, the government’s attorney argued that the defendant deserves to be punished according to the law. He pointed out that the defendant does not have a drug problem because he told Probation that the glass pipe containing meth found in his possession did not belong to him — he found it under a tree — and he didn’t admit to Probation that he has a drug problem.
The prosecution further claimed his response to Probation’s question proved that the defendant did not learn any lesson from previous convictions. Not only did he test positive for marijuana at the beginning of this year but he also has been unable to pay any of the $1,000 fine ordered by the court four years ago.
A recess was called.
When the court reconvened, Lafai’s probation was not revoked but the court modified it and gave him another chance to work with Probation.
For his current convictions, Lafai was sentenced to 5 years imprisonment. This sentence will run consecutively with any other sentence he’s currently serving at the TCF.
Execution of the period of detention was suspended and the defendant was placed on probation for 5 years subject to several conditions. He has to serve 20 months at the TCF, with credit for the time he already served during his pretrial conference detention.
Upon serving his period of detention, the court ordered that the defendant depart the territory and remain outside of its borders for the duration of his probation. He will only depart the territory once a repatriation flight is arranged to transport home Samoa detainees who have already served their sentences.
If the 20 months detention expires and the repatriation flight isn’t scheduled, the defendant will be returned to the custody of Immigration due to his illegal status.
The court said that according to the sponsor, she doesn’t want anything to do with this defendant.
In 2015, Lafai was convicted of unlawful possession of marijuana and sentenced to 5 years probation. As a condition of his probation, he was ordered to serve 20 months at the TCF, remain law abiding and stay away from alcohol and illegal drugs.
Four years later while he was on probation, Lafai was arrested during a public peace disturbance incident in Ottoville where he discharged a firearm during an argument with other family members.
Witnesses told police they saw Lafai take the gun away from a family member then aim it at another family member and fire two shots. A third shot was fired at a house where kids were. Lafai, in the police affidavit, stated to police that the gun belonged to another family member.
Lafai was convicted for unlawful discharge of a firearm and was sentenced to two years probation. The court also modified conditions of his 2015 probation and ordered him to serve the remaining period of his detention.
A few months later after Lafai was sentenced in 2020, he was arrested again for violating conditions of his probation after police found a glass pipe containing meth in his possession. The court found Lafai guilty of violating conditions of his probation and ordered him to serve out his suspended sentence.
However, due to his 2018 drug conviction, Lafai continued to be incarcerated awaiting the outcome of the case for which he appeared in court last week.
Starting date for Lafai’s 20 months detention for his current conviction was February of last year. For this conviction he should be eligible for release and deportation by Oct. 2021.