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TCF inmate tests positive for meth

Territorial Correctional Facility, TCF
He would have been released, had the results been negative

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — A man who was to be released from custody last week after he entered into a plea agreement with the government was remanded back to the Territorial Correctional Facility (TCF) that same day, after he allegedly tested positive for methamphetamine.

Niko Tuipine appeared in court last week for a Change of Plea (COP) hearing. He was represented by Assistant Public Defender Rob McNeill, while prosecuting was Assistant Attorney General Laura Garvey.

Tuipine, who has been in custody since his arrest, was originally charged with one count of unlawful possession of a controlled substance (methamphetamine), a felony punishable by a jail term between 5 and 10 years, a fine between $5,000 and $20,000 - or both.

Under a plea agreement with the government, which was accepted by the court, Tuipine pled guilty to a lesser amended charge of unlawful possession of a controlled substance  (methamphetamine).

After Tuipine’s plea agreement was read aloud in open court, Chief Justice Michael Kruse had some questions for the defendant regarding his change of plea.

Sentencing was set for next month.

Kruse also accepted McNeill's request to release Tuipine on his own recognizance, to await sentencing. But there was one condition: Tuipine had to get tested first, to see if he was alcohol and drug free.

Kruse made it clear that if Tuipine was clean, he would be released from custody; but if not, he would remain at the TCF until sentencing.

Samoa News understands that a random test for Tuipine was administered by the Chief Probation Officer immediately after his court hearing, and the results allegedly were positive for methamphetamine.

Tuipine is believed to have told Probation officials that he smoked meth on Monday, two days before he appeared in court for his Change of Plea hearing.

Following the positive test results, Tuipine was immediately escorted back to the TCF.

The presence of illegal drugs at TCF is not a new issue. In May of last year, three inmates serving time for unlawful possession of illegal drugs tested positive for meth.

They were: John Tuupo, Junior Tolupo Hodges, and Wayne Gasolo.