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Tao Liu pleads guilty to drug possession, asks to return to China with 2-yr-old son

Chief Justice Michael Kruse [SN file photo]
Says to ‘care for his mother’

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Sentencing for Tao Liu has been continued to May 18 so the court can get information regarding his immigration status, especially the status of his 2-year-old son, who is under the custody of the Department of Human and Social Services.

Liu appeared in High Court last Friday for sentencing; however, Chief Justice Michael Kruse ordered to continue Liu’s sentencing for another 4 weeks, because it seems there's missing information from the pre-sentence report that the court needs.

Kruse said that according to the information the court has, the defendant was brought over in 2012 to work at the Karaoke Bar in Satala, which is owned by a lady who was convicted of promoting prostitution.

“And according to the information before the court, this lady passed away not long ago,” Kruse said. Government attorney Christy Dunn responded, “Yes your honor, and my understanding is that this defendant’s immigration record expired in May of last year.”

Kruse continued, “And that Karaoke Bar was shut down sometime ago consequential to the criminal case that surfaced at that time. Is he still sponsored by the lady who passed away?” Dunn responded, “That’s my understanding.”

The defendant — a Chinese national —presented his statement to the court through an interpreter who translated court proceedings from English to Mandarin. He asked the court for another chance to return to China to care for his mother.

In his own words, Liu told the court he is from China, and he entered American Samoa to seek a better future for him and his family back home.

“During my stay in American Samoa, I’ve made so many bad decisions, including violating the laws of the territory, and I am here to express my apologies to the court for my wrongdoings,” the defendant said.

“I understand the court will hardly accept my request and apology, but I truly seek the court’s forgiveness for my actions and ask for a chance so I can go back home with my 2-year-old son, who is under the custody of the government. I am remorseful and ashamed of my actions.”

His attorney, deputy public defender Michael White, had nothing to add to his client’s statement to the court.

Dunn however pointed out that the defendant’s 2-year-old son has been under the custody of DHSS since the day of his arrest.

Kruse said the charges against the defendant are serious and the court needs to take that into consideration. He also asked the government to file something under seal for the court’s eyes only about the status of the 2-year-old boy who is under DHSS custody.

According to the court, the government charged Liu in two separate cases.

For case first case, the defendant was arrested and accused of possessing a handgun and drugs found during a traffic stop in Aug. 2016.

The government then slapped him with eleven charges including attempted assault, unlawful possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute, unlawful possession of  a controlled substance (marijuana) and unlawful possession of a controlled substance (methamphetamine), possession of an unlicensed firearm, resisting arrest, careless driving and public peace disturbance.

For the second case, Liu is charged with escape from confinement, a class D felony, punishable by not more than five years in jail, and/or a fine of not more than $5,000, or both.

However, under a plea bargain that was accepted by the court this week, Liu pled guilty to unlawful possession of a controlled substance (methamphetamine), unlawful possession of a controlled substance (marijuana) and possession of an unlicensed firearm in the first case; and escape from confinement in the second case. The remaining charges were dismissed.

The defendant, through an interpreter, admits that on or about the evening of Aug. 21, 2016, he was in possession of methamphetamine, marijuana and an unlicensed firearm.

Liu, who is being held in custody without bail, is scheduled to appear for sentencing on May 18th.

Chief Justice Michael Kruse has ordered the government to bring all items that were seized in Liu’s case to court.