Rash of marijuana, PPD and some more serious cases in court
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — A man accused of selling hand rolled marijuana cigarettes to two men last year has entered into a plea agreement. Fia Taumaoe, 30, of Tafuna appeared in court last week for a pretrial conference but pled out instead.
Taumaoe, a carpenter, was initially charged with unlawful possession of marijuana with the intent to distribute; and unlawful possession of marijuana. But under a plea agreement with the government, accepted by the court, Taumaoe pled guilty to a lesser, amended charge, a class D felony punishable by up to 5 years in jail, a fine of up to $5,000 or both.
Taumaoe admits that on Dec. 30, 2019 in Tafuna, he sold 15 hand rolled marijuana joints — for $10 apiece — to four men he claims are his regular customers.
The case was reported to police by a woman, who found two joints inside her husband’s pocket. A verbal argument erupted between the couple, and it ended with the woman telling police that Taumaoe is her husband’s cousin, and he’s been selling drugs in the village for years — but nobody has reported it to police out of fear of Taumaoe and his family.
A search of Taumaoe’s home and plantation was carried out, where police found drugs, firearms, and drug paraphernalia.
Taumaoe, who is out on a $5,000 surety bond, will be sentenced Nov. 10, 2020.
A man who was arrested for disturbing the peace (PPD) and later found to be in possession of drugs has entered into a plea agreement with the government.
Mapu Salesa appeared in court last week for a pretrial conference.
He was initially charged with unlawful possession of marijuana, a felony, and two misdemeanors: third degree assault and PPD. But under a plea agreement, accepted by the court, Salesa pled guilty to the amended, lesser charge of unlawful possession of marijuana, a class D felony that carries a sentence of up to 5 years in jail, a fine of up to $5,000 or both.
Salesa, set to be sentenced Oct. 28th, admits that on the evening of Mar. 21, 2020 at his home in Tafeta, he had on him two small baggies containing green leaves of marijuana when police arrested him for PPD.
According to the plea agreement, when cops arrived at the scene, Salesa was yelling profanities at his neighbor, with a beer bottle in hand. During a body search, police found two hand rolled marijuana cigarettes on him. Salesa admitted that the joints belonged to him, and he bought them from a man named “FIA” in Vaitogi.
Foa’i Etemani, a probationer convicted of PPD, has been sentenced to 30 days in jail.
“This is how things work out in this courtroom,” the court told Etemani. “Once you violate a condition of your probation, we’re no longer talking about counseling; we’re talking about jail terms, and that’s what you get for disobeying the court’s order.”
“So, if you want to try the court again, go ahead because your next conviction will be higher than this one,” it warned.
Etemani was placed on probation for 6 months following a PPD conviction at the beginning of this year. One of the many conditions of probation required him to maintain the peace with his girlfriend and remain law abiding.
However, Etemani — while on probation — was re-arrested and charged for yet another PPD. He will have to spend 30 days at the Territorial Correctional Facility (TCF).
Utuone Leva’a, who pled guilty to third degree assault last week — a charge amended from assault in the second degree — was sentenced to time served, which was 79 days.
During the hearing, the defendant admitted pulling a knife on the victim. He further admitted that he punched the victim in the face and kicked his back twice.
However, the defendant also told the court that it was the victim who first assaulted him by striking his head with an empty beer bottle causing a cut on the left side of his head. He was shocked to learn that police did not arrest nor charge the victim for his role in the incident. And when asked by the court, said yes, he agrees that it’s unfair that he was the only one charged in the altercation.
According to the government’s case, police received a report by the complaining witness that the defendant had stabbed him in the hand, while accusing him of stealing items from his house. The government claimed that the victim also admitted to police that it was he who started the incident.
Court documents state that the Emergency Medical Services treated the injuries the victim sustained from the attack, and it’s alleged the injuries were not serious.
Police confiscated the knife from the defendant’s residence, and it was turned into the police evidence room.
The court ordered Leva’a not to go near the victim’s house and if he encounters him in public, he must walk away from him peacefully, as a condition of his 12-month probation. The court ordered Leva’a to serve 79 days at the Territorial Correctional Facility (TCF), and credited him for the 79 days he’s already served. The balance of detention is stayed until further order of the court.
The court also ordered Leva’a to pay $100, attend counseling and stay away from alcohol and illegal drugs.
A 39-year-old man from Tafuna accused of using a sharp object to assault another man during a drinking session has been arrested and charged with second degree assault, a felony, punishable by not more than 5 years imprisonment, and/or a fine of not more than $5,000 or both; and two misdemeanor charges, unlawful use of a weapon and public peace disturbance.
The charges against Tomasi Ili stem from an incident that occurred last month in Tafuna, where he allegedly used a sharp piece of metal from his mechanic shop to assault and severely injure another man for allegedly stealing tools and spare parts from his shop two months ago.
According to the police report, Ili and the victim got into a disagreement during a drinking session outside of Ili’s mechanic shop regarding his tools that the victim allegedly stole from inside his shop. The incident escalated to the victim allegedly assaulted Ili and in turn Ili assaulting the victim with a sharp metal pipe in the head.
The victim ran for help while Ili followed him in an attempt to strike him again, however, two bystanders who saw the incident jumped in and stopped Ili, assisted the victim and immediately called police for assistance.
Ili made his initial appearance in the District Court last week, where he waived his right to a preliminary examination.
His next court appearance is tomorrow at 9 a.m in High Court, where he is expected to enter a not guilty plea to the charges.
Ili’s attorney, Assistant Public Defender, Ryan Anderson, asked the court for a reduction in bail — from $5,000 to $1,500. Stuart told the court that Ili is a hard working man, and he is the only member of his family who works to provide for his wife and two children. Stuart said his client is not a flight risk; and he has no intention of leaving his family.
The prosecutor opposed the defense’s motion, saying the bail set by the court is the right amount for the offense the defendant is accused of committing.
The defense motion was denied and bail remains at $5,000; and because he is unable to post bond, Ili remains in custody at the TCF.