Pregnant 19 year-old gets probation — warned by court, she is now an adult
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The 19-year-old girl who was convicted of stealing was released from custody last week, after the High Court decided that the four months she served at the Territorial Correctional Facility (TCF), to await sentencing, was enough.
Caroline Purcell was initially charged with transparency to commit stealing. But under a plea agreement with the government, the defendant pled guilty to the amended charge of stealing, a class C felony, punishable by not more than 7 years imprisonment, and/ or a fine of not more than $5,000.
With her guilty plea, Purcell admits that sometime during January this year, she misappropriated properties that belonged to another person.
During her sentencing, Purcell apologized to the government, the court, and people of American Samoa for her behavior and asked for forgiveness.
“I didn’t mean to break the law; unfortunately, I made a mistake and I can't take back what happened. This is coming from a young girl ready to be a mother. I promise I will never do any stupid thing like this again. Please, I want to go home to my family,” Purcell said.
Her father and her grandmother, who were both present in court, were in tears when Purcell apologized to the court.
Her attorney, deputy public defender Michael White asked the court for another chance for Purcell. He said she’s only 19 years old and she’s very immature. He said he told her she needs to think about her future because she’s 5-months pregnant and she’s going to bring a new life to the world.
White said he feels his client is a suitable candidate for a probated sentence. He then asked the court to place Purcell on probation without any more jail time.
Prosecutor Robert Morris echoed White’s statement.
Acting Associate Justice Elvis P. Patea told Purcell she’s only 19 but the pre-sentence report shows that she's had a prior run-in with the law.
“At the time it seemed minor and the punishment that was given out in those cases also seem minor… now you’re in the big league, so the offenses are no longer considered minor, and the punishment will no longer be minor and you ought to keep that in mind as you go forward,” Patea told the defendant.
Purcell was placed on probation for 5 years under certain conditions. She has to remain a law abiding at all times, visit the probation office once a month, and she has to serve a period of detention of 12 months at TCF.
“You will be credited the 4 months you have already served; the balance of 8 months will be stayed as long as you comply with all conditions of your probation,” Patea told Purcell, who was also ordered to pay a $500 fine within 8 months, and obtain and maintain gainful employment.
A 36-year-old man who is accused of stealing checks from a businessman and forging his signature has pled guilty.
Eteuati Lagolago is charged in two separate criminal cases.
In the first case, Lagolago is charged with stealing, forgery, and fraud — all felonies. For the second case, he is being charged with attempted stealing and resisting arrest — all felonies - and two misdemeanor charges of third degree assault.
Under a plea agreement with the government, the defendant pled guilty to forgery, a class C felony; and resisting arrest, a class D felony. The remaining charges are dismissed.
Lagolago admits that on or about Sept 28th, 2017, he signed a check from K&M Mart store in Tafuna without the owner’s permission. The defendant further admits that he forged the signature of Kevin Chi, the owner of K&M Mart store, on the check, and pretended he was ‘Chi’
He then cashed the check for his own personal use.
For resisting arrest, Lagolago admits that on or about Oct. 11, 2017 when he knew police were on their way to arrest him, he fled by driving away in his vehicle at a high rate of speed. According to Lagolago, his vehicle almost collided with other vehicles and pedestrians, who were crossing the road that day.
The Court accepted Lagolago’s guilty pleas, and was satisfied that the defendant’s decision to plead guilty was made upon receiving advice from his attorney. The Court did note that there were actual facts to support the case against the defendant.
Lagolago has been remanded back to custody to await his sentence, which is set for May. 28th.