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Plea agreement reached in marijuana case


Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — A plea agreement was reached in one of the government's two cases against Tavita Mariota, accused of giving marijuana to a minor.

He was initially charged with one count of unlawful possession of a controlled substance (marijuana) with the intent to distribute, a felony punishable by imprisonment of not less than 5 years and not more than 10  years, or a fine of not less than $5,000 and not more than $20,000; and one count of endangering the welfare of a child, a class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail, and a fine of up to $1,000, or both.

During court proceedings earlier this year, Mariota — maintaining his 'not guilty' plea — opted not to take up the offer from the government, requesting to set his case for a jury trial.

However, last Friday, he pled guilty to the amended count of aiding or abetting another to possess drugs, a class D felony that carries a jail term of up to 5 years, a fine of up to $5,000, or both.

With his guilty plea, Mariota admits that on May 8, 2018 he provided marijuana cigarettes to a 16-year-old. A lengthy discussion between Chief Justice Michael Kruse and attorneys from both sides ended up with Kruse continuing the matter to January 24, 2019.

A disposition hearing is also set for that date.

The charges against Mariota stem from an incident involving high school students caught smoking weed on campus. The Tafuna High School students allegedly told police that Mariota gave them marijuana to sell.