Overstayer pleads to reduced drug charges, ordered to depart territory
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The sponsor of a 35-year-old woman, an overstayer convicted of violating local drug laws, was ordered by the court to pay the defendant’s fine of $2,000 within 5 years, which is the period of probation for the defendant. Furthermore, the defendant was ordered to depart the territory and remain outside of the borders of American Samoa for the duration of her probation.
Rosemarie Siale, who is a foreign national, but has lived in American Samoa for many years, appeared in court yesterday morning for sentencing. She was represented by Assistant Public Defender Rob McNeill while prosecuting the case was Assistant Attorney General Laura Garvey.
Siale was initially charged with one count of unlawful possession of methamphetamine, an unclassified felony punishable by imprisonment from 5-10 years, a fine of up to $20,000, or both. However, under a plea agreement with the government, accepted by the court two months ago, Siale pled guilty to the amended charge of unlawful possession of methamphetamine, a class D felony, punishable by imprisonment of up to 5 years, a fine of up to $5,000, or both.
By her guilty plea, Siale admits that on Jan. 8, 2020 she had a glass pipe containing methamphetamine in her pocket when police pulled over a vehicle she was riding in. A male who was driving was the co-defendant in this matter.
When given the chance to address the court, Siale, who has been in custody since her arrest unable to post a $5,000 surety bond, apologized to the court for her action and begged for another chance to return home to care for her young children. She told the court that she has learned her lesson after living in prison for over 7 months.
She promised that she would never appear in court again.
Based on her illegal immigration status, Siale asked the court to allow her to go back to her family in Tonga.
Defense attorney, McNeill asked the court for a second chance for his client, saying that she was found with a small quantity of methamphetamine. McNeill also informed the court that his client has taken full responsibility for her actions and she’s truly remorseful for what she did.
Prosecutor Garvey asked the court to adopt the recommendation made by both parties during the plea agreement to allow the defendant to depart the territory and remain outside of its border for the duration of her probation.
Based on the information provided to the court, Siale’s immigration status expired four years ago, which was 2016 and her sponsor (her brother) was unable to renew her immigration identification (ID).
Before the court deliberated on the sentence, Associate Justice Fiti Sunia instructed the defense to call the sponsor to the witness stand because the court needs to ask some questions pertaining to his knowledge about his responsibility as a sponsor under the Immigration Laws.
The sponsor, Tevita Siale took the witness stand and informed the court that he understood his role as a sponsor, and he’s willing to work together with both parties to make sure his sister’s flight arrangement including her fare will be provided according to order of the court.
Mr. Siale, an employee of the DOE School Lunch Program, told the court that it was his fault that led to the problem for his sister to be an overstayer for over 4 years, after he failed to renew her immigration documents.
Mr. Siale further stated that he tried to register her sister under the new Amnesty Program but was denied, due to the fact that his sister was already in custody at the time.
Sunia said that the circumstance of the case stem from an incident when the defendant was found with a glass pipe containing residue of methamphetamine.
The discovery was made during a traffic stop when a driver, accompanying the defendant was found with a handgun. Furthermore, Sunia said that based on the information received by the court, the driver was also charged in this case.
Siale was sentenced to 5 years imprisonment and a $2,000 fine. Execution of sentence is suspended and the defendant is placed on probation for 5 years subject to certain conditions.
She shall serve a period of detention of 20 months at the Territorial Correctional Facility (TCF). She will be credited for the 201 days she has already served with the remainder on hold and she will immediately depart the territory and remain outside of its border for period of probation of 5 years, as soon as borders are reopened.
If borders are not reopened in the next 12 months, Siale will then serve the remainder of her 20 months detention period.
Sunia told Siale that her sponsor would be responsible for all arrangement of the defendant’s travel including her fare, and he (sponsor) should work together with attorneys from both parties to make sure everything will be completed before the defendant’s departure.
Sunia strongly advised the defendant that if she enters the territory within the period of her probation, the court will order her to serve the remaining period of probation. Upon serving that period of detention, she will depart the territory and remain outside of its borders.
Lastly, Sunia instructed the defendant’s sponsor to pay the defendant’s fine of $2,000 within the period of 5 years.
Most of Siale’s life had been spent here in American Samoa where she attended school and graduated from high school. She also worked until her immigration ID expired.
Siale was previously convicted by the High Court for conspiracy to commit fraud, and was sentenced to 5 years probation with the condition that she serves 20 months at the Territorial Correctional Facility (TCF).
She was one of the co-defendants involved in a Driver’s License scam at the Office of Motor Vehicles (OMV) in 2009. Siale received a fake driver’s license after she paid money to a former OMV employee.
In 2015 charges against co-defendants in that case, Filifa’atali Mike Fuiava and Marie Ripley were dismissed without prejudice (meaning it can be refilled).
According to Samoa News archives Ripley was charged in connection with the issuance of a forged driver’s license for a female identified at the time as a Tongan national, and faced counts of forgery, possession of a forging instrument, and public servant acceding to corruption, while Filifa’atali was charged with tampering with physical evidence and hindering prosecution.
ASG moved to dismiss this matter without prejudice in June 2015 on the basis, among others, that through the passage of time, the government was unable to maintain its case against the defendants based on evidentiary reasons.