PPD arrest escalates to an arrest on two outstanding warrants
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — A young man from Vaitogi who was released on bond last year while awaiting the outcome of his felony assault case in High Court is now back in custody after being arrested for disturbing the public peace in Vaitogi last week.
When Solomona Gauta appeared in District Court last week for his initial appearance, he was served with copies of two outstanding arrest warrants from 2020 for unlawful possession of methamphetamine (meth) and stealing.
Gauta made his initial appearance before District Court Judge Gwen Tauiliili Langkilde.
The government charged Gauta in 3 different cases. In the first case, Gauta is charged with one case of public peace disturbance (PPD), one count of 3rd degree assault and one count of 3rd degree property damage, call class A misdemeanor, punishable by imprisonment for up to one year, a fine of $1,000, or both.
Gauta’s bail for this case is $1,000.
In the second case, he is charged with one count of stealing, a class C felony, punishable by a term of imprisonment of up to seven years, a $5,000 or pursuant to A.S.C.A 46.2101, a fine equal to twice the amount of gain from the commission of said crime, up to a maximum of $20,000, or both such fine and imprisonment, and one count of 3rd degree assault.
Gauta’s bail for this case is $10,000.
In the third case, Gauta is charged with one count of unlawful possession of meth with the intent to distribute and one count of unlawful possession of meth, both unclassified felonies, punishable by a term of imprisonment of not less than five years nor more than twenty years and a fine of not more than $20,000 or both.
Gauta’s bail for this case is set at $25,000.
He is scheduled to appear in District Court this week for his preliminary examination (PX).
On June 24, 2021 around 12.43a.m, the Tafuna Police Substation (TPS) received a called from a woman in Vaitogi requesting police assistance at her residence. She told police that her cousin by the name of Solomona Gauta was breaking the windows of her friend’s vehicle.
Several police officers responding to the call met up with the woman who requested police assistance. After speaking with the reporter, officers immediately apprehended Gauta and transported him to the TPS for further investigation. Gauta refused to make any statement to investigators.
During the booking process, investigators discovered that there were two outstanding warrants in Gauta’s name from 2020.
On Sept. 9, 2020, Vice and Narcotics Unit (VNU ) were contacted about a matter at the TPS where traffic officers stopped a vehicle that was observed without license plate lights and discovered that the driver did not possess his driver’s license. As a result, the driver and his two male passengers were escorted to the TPS, however illegal drugs were later found where one of the passengers had been seated.
Investigators from the VNU then took over the matter and started their investigation regarding the illegal drugs.
According to the statement from one of the officers, who initiated the traffic stop, they approached the said vehicle, and found a driver and two male passengers — one inside the vehicle, the other was sitting in the back bed of the vehicle — he was later identified as Solomona Gauta, the defendant in this case.
Since the driver did not possess his driver’s license, officers instructed the driver to drive his car to the TPS.
Upon arrival at the TPS, all three men were requested to come in to the TPS to await investigation of the driver.
At the same time, Gauta asked one officer if he could wash his face, and the officer directed Gauta (who was carrying a black pouch at the time) to an outside water faucet at the back corner of the substation.
Around this time, one of the officers noticed a plastic stamp sized baggie at the back bed of the vehicle where Gauta had been sitting. The officer informed investigators about it and then quickly proceeded to the water faucet where Gauta was standing, and found a ziploc baggie and simoi baggies containing several stamp size baggies and cut up straws with usable amounts of white crystalline substance inside, in the area he was standing.
Officers detained Gauta and escorted him inside the substation and investigators of the VNU were notified about the find.
A police officer who had been sitting adjacent from the water faucet that was used by Gauta said he witnessed Gauta waving his shirt around trying to get rid of something.
On the same date, investigators interviewed the driver of the said vehicle who made a voluntary statement regarding the discovery. According to the driver’s statement, he was on his way to his girlfriend’s house when Gauta stopped him in front of the road in Vaitogi and asked if he could get a lift to Puapua.
The other passenger, according to the driver, he picked up as Gauta and he were driving on the Vaitogi road. The male stopped him and asked if he could come for a ride. The man then jumped in the front passenger seat. The driver stated as they turned in front of the Catholic Church in Futiga, Gauta did not hop out but instead decided to come back with them. And on their way back home, officers pulled them over and later escorted them to the substation.
Investigators interviewed the man who was sitting at the front seat. He confirmed what the driver had said. He also noted that he saw Gauta with a small black bag around his shoulder when he hopped to the back of the vehicle.
Gauta was questioned regarding this matter. He admitted to carrying a small black bag when stopped by officers, however, he denied owning the stuff that was found inside. Gauta informed investigators that the bag belonged to a man name “Chico” from a place in Iliili called “Le filifili”. Gauta stated that he met Chico at a bus stop in Vaitogi and Chico must have left and forgot the bag. Therefore, he took bag home and was walk about with it.
After obtaining his written statement, Gauta left to go home on his own free will pending an investigation.
Evidence recovered included 24 stamp sized baggies, 12 containing usable amount of crystalline substance of meth and 5 colored cut up straws all containing usable amount of crystalline substance of meth. Also found were 4 empty simoi baggies and a plastic tube containing usable amount of crystalline substance of meth, along with a cracked glass pipe with usable amount of crystalline substance- meth. Officers also discovered a small black pouch, a ziploc bag and 3 cut up straws used as scoops.
Evidence seized was documented and later turned into the evidence custodial. The substance was later tested and revealed a positive results for meth.
Investigation disclosed that on Oct. 14, 2020 at about 11:20p.m, a man called the TPS to report that his vehicle had been stolen. Several police officers responded to the call.
Investigation disclosed that on the date in question, the victim had gone to Vaitogi to pick up his passengers. When he got there, he found out his passengers were already in Futiga. He then parked his vehicle in front of a house. That was when three men (one of them is the defendant, Solomona Gauta) approached him and forced their way into his vehicle.
They then told him if he was able to drop them off at a place called “Laumei” in Vaitogi and he agreed.
As the vehicle arrived at Laumei in Vaitogi, Guata then punched him in his right eye and his body area several times, while the other two male individuals punched him several times from behind.
The victim was able to get out of the vehicle. Injured, the victim was trying to find a rock with which to defend himself, and that was when Gauta jumped into the driver’s side and drove off with the vehicle with the other two male individuals. Desperate, the victim tried to run after his vehicle but was not able to catch up to it.
On March 17, 2020, Gauta was arrested and charged with one count of second-degree assault, a class D felony, punishable by imprisonment of up to 5 years, a fine of up to $5,000 or both.
The court set bail at $5,000 and Gauta was later released on bond subject to several conditions.
The charge against Gauta stemmed from an incident happened in Vaitogi on Feb. 17, 2020 when police at the Tafuna Substation (TSS) received a call from a woman, saying that her son had been assaulted by another person and was being taken to the LBJ Hospital by ambulance for further treatment.
Several police officers responded to the call and found out that a 27-year-old man suffered severe injuries to his lower back and needed immediate surgery.
Investigators interviewed the victim’s mother, who informed them that her son (victim) was allegedly assaulted by man from the Solomona family in Vaitogi. The mother further stated to investigators that her son was assaulted while he was with his girlfriend.
Investigators learned that the victim’s girlfriend is the sister of the suspect in this matter, and the victim was allegedly assaulted while he was with her inside a room. Investigators interviewed the girlfriend regarding the alleged incident. The girlfriend told investigators that she was not around when her brother (suspect) allegedly stabbed the victim. All she knew was that she and her boyfriend (victim) were shocked when her brother (suspect) kicked the door open and that’s when her boyfriend (victim) and her brother got into a fight.
According to the witness, she tried hard to stop the fight but it was getting out of hand and that’s when she ran outside calling for help and few moments later, she noticed her boyfriend running outside from the house covered in blood. She immediately took her boyfriend to seek help.
When investigators asked the witness if she saw the suspect stab the victim, the witness responded, “I did not see that part because I was outside of the house.”
A day after the alleged incident, investigators spoke to the victim about the incident.
According to the victim’s statement, he was inside the room with his girlfriend when the suspect barged in and they immediately got into a fight. During their fight the suspect allegedly stabbed his side with a knife. The victim further told investigators that when he got the knife away, he then ran outside for help.
It was a day after the alleged incident that the suspect walked into the TPS, accompanied by his mother.
After he was Mirandized, the suspect told investigators that he understood and agreed to make a statement regarding the incident.
The suspect told investigators that he was outside of the house when he heard his sister scream and he then went into the room. That’s when he saw the victim on top of her with his hands around his sister’s neck. He grabbed the victim and that’s when they started to fight.
According to the suspect’s statement, he punched the victim causing him to fall on the glass table inside the room. The victim then stood up and ran outside for help.
When the lead investigator examined the crime scene, the area was already cleaned up and she did not find the assault weapon. She only observed blood splatters on the walls inside the room where the alleged incident took place.
Two days later the victim was released from the LBJ Hospital and investigators interviewed him again.
According to the victim’s second interview with investigators he told them while he was inside the room with his girlfriend, the suspect kicked the door open and rushed in holding two knives.
The victim and his girlfriend tried to stop the suspect but he was too big and heavy. According to the victim, that’s when the suspect stabbed him in his back. He then took the knife that he got stabbed with and tossed it behind him and made his way out of the room. The victim told investigators that the knife he got stabbed with, was a silver butter knife.
Investigators also interviewed the victim’s girlfriend again and cautioned her to tell the truth.
She said she was inside the room trying to hold her brother back but he was too strong and he kept wanting to stab her boyfriend. She said she tried to push her brother away from her boyfriend but she couldn’t and that’s when she ran outside and called for help. When she came back in the room, her brother (the suspect) cried out to call the ambulance because the victim was hurt.