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Probation and fine ordered for two men charged in Laulii theft case

American Samoa High Court building
Victim asks that they be removed from the village

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The two men convicted of removing property from a business in Laulii were sentenced last week to 24 months probation.

William Asiata and Tangi Amotau appeared in court last week for sentencing. They were initially charged with stealing and second degree burglary, both class C felonies, punishable by imprisonment of up to 7 years, a fine of up to $5,000 or both.

Under a plea agreement, Asiata and Amotau pled guilty to the amended count of stealing, a class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail, a fine of up to $1,000 or both.

Asiata and Amotau admit that around April 2019, they removed a safe belonging to a business owner in Laulii without the owner’s permission. The safe was later discovered by villagers and returned to the owner.

When given the chance to speak, both defendants apologized and begged for a second chance to return home to do something good with their lives and care for their families. Both men also apologized to the victim and asked for his forgiveness.

Asiata said the 140 days he spent in jail before posting bond taught him a good lesson: that alcohol will cause a person to break the law. He asked the court for a chance to return home so he can find a job and provide for his kids.

Defense attorney Rob McNeill said both his clients are truly remorseful and have learned their lesson. He asked the court to adopt the recommendation by Probation, which is a probated sentence. Prosecutor, Doug Lowe did not oppose.

According to Lowe, the victim is asking that the court order both defendants to pay $1,000 restitution each - which is less than the value of the property they removed from his business and damaged.

Lowe added that the victim is also asking the court to remove both defendants from the village to stop them from committing the same offense again in the future.

In delivering his decision, Sunia sentenced each defendant to serve one year at the TCF. Execution of sentence is suspended and each defendant is placed on probation for 24 months subject to several conditions.

They each have to serve a period of detention of 90 days, credited the 140 days they spent in pretrial confinement prior to posting bond. Each man is also to pay a $1,000 fine within the first 3 months of probation. “Don’t come back to see us in this matter or any other matter,” Sunia told both defendants.

Sunia then turned to the prosecutor and said, “Mr. Lowe, thank you for bringing that matter of removing both defendants from their village. The court wants to let you know that it’s a constitutional matter and we haven’t crossed that bridge.”