Sonny Kelemete to serve 40 months for drug conviction
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — A 60-year-old man has been ordered to serve 40 months at the Territorial Correctional Facility (TCF) for a drug conviction.
Sonny Mika Kelemete appeared before Chief Justice Michael Kruse yesterday morning for sentencing. Prosecuting the case was Assistant Attorney General Christy Dunn, while Assistant Public Defender Rob McNeill represented Kelemete, who was charged in two separate cases.
In the first case, Kelemete was charged with one count of unlawful possession of methamphetamine with the intent to dis- tribute, a felony; and one count of unlawful possession of a rearm, a class A misdemeanor.
For the second case, he was charged with one count of unlawful possession of methamphetamine with the intent to distribute; and one count of unlawful possession of methamphetamine - both felonies.
But under the global plea agreement, accepted by the court, Kelemete pled guilty to the amended count of unlawful possession of meth, a class D felony in the first case. He also pled guilty to unlawful possession of meth with the intent to distribute, a felony punishable by up to 20 years imprisonment, a fine of up to $20,000 or both in the second case.
With his guilty pleas, Kelemete admits that on July 07, 2017 he had on him a small stamp-sized baggie containing meth when cops pulled him over during a traffic stop. He also admits that on Sept. 05, 2017 he had on him, 9 small stamp-sized baggies containing meth, intended for distribution.
When given the chance to speak, Kelemete apologized and asked for a second chance to return home and care for his family. He said he had no intention of breaking the law, but he made some bad decisions that were fueled by the devil.
McNeill asked the court to grant his client a second chance. According to him, Kelemete is a family man who served in the military for many years, and he returned to American Samoa to serve his family - something he does with love and compassion.
McNeill said things changed when Kelemete started to suffer from a mental illness that caused a lot of problems for him and his family. The defense attorney asked for a probated sentence, so his client can get help to address his mental illness.
Kruse told McNeill that the court has deep concerns with Kelemete’s behavior. He said that while the defense is pointing to the defendant’s medical problems, court files indicate that when Kelemete was released on bail in his first case, he went back to the streets and did the same thing - selling drugs to young people. According to the court, this is not what a sick man does.
RECAP OF THE FACTS
Kelemete was first charged after cops found drugs and a firearm in his vehicle. He was released on a $5,000 surety bond after his initial appearance in District Court, under the condition that he remain law abiding. Two months later, cops pulled over Kelemete’s vehicle in Iliili for a loud muffler.
Nine small baggies containing a white substance that later tested positive for meth were found inside Kelemete’s pants pocket during a body search. Several empty baggies and $90 cash were also found on him.
For that incident, Kelemete was charged with unlawful possession of meth with the intent to distribute; and unlawful possession of meth. He was later released on a $30,000 surety bond.
According to Kruse, Kelemete has an extensive criminal record not only in the state of Hawaii, but also in American Samoa; and now he’s pleading for mercy so he can go home and be with his family.
The sad thing about Kelemete, Kruse said, is that he’s well known in the process - both here and in Hawaii - but somehow he’s not learning any good lessons from his previous appearances in court.
For unlawful possession of meth, Kelemete was sentenced to 5 years in jail. For unlawful possession of meth with the intent to distribute, he was sentenced to 10 years. Both sen- tences are to run concurrently, which means Kelemete will serve 10 years at the TCF.
Execution of sentence is suspended and Kelemete is placed on probation for 10 years, under certain conditions. He has to serve 40 months at the TCF. After 20 months, the court will call a probation review hearing to see how Kelemete is doing on probation, while serving detention.
The Warden is directed to ensure that Kelemete has access to his medication and that he makes his doctor’s appointments. The government’s attorney is to ensure that Kelemete’s medications are paid for.
While incarcerated, Probation is ordered to have Kelemete tested once a month for drugs and alcohol. Kruse reminded Kelemete that if he fails to comply with any of these conditions, the court will revoke his probation and he will serve 10 years at the TCF.
ISSUE OF BAIL
Kruse raised the issue regarding bail, and also the incident whereby Kelemete failed to appear in court when his case was called a few months ago. Kruse reminded McNeill that when Kelemete was initially released on bond, he committed another crime. Subsequently, he was released again, on a $30,000 bond, and he failed to appear in court.
Kruse recalled the testimony of a former investigator with the Public Defender’s Office, Eddie Fruean, who testified that Kelemete missed his court appearance because he was visiting his doctor.
Kruse told McNeill that the court found out later that Fruean’s sworn testimony on the stand was a lie.
The court will hear the issue on Kelemete’s bail at a later date. The government is instructed to inform the person who put up the vehicle to bail Kelemete out, about the hearing.