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Thief convicted of stealing laptop he says he found

American Samoa High Court building

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The 25-year-old man who was convicted of stealing a laptop from a home in Vaitogi asked the court for a second chance so that he can go back home to serve his church, and care for his parents and sisters.

Tafilele Tei, who remains in custody under a $10,000 bond was initially charged with stealing and 2nd degree burglary, both felonies. However, under a pea agreement with the government, Tei pled guilty to stealing. The remaining charge was dismissed.

Tei admits that on Feb 21, 2018 he stole a laptop from a home in Vaitogi and later sold it to another person.

Tei appeared in High Court Thursday morning for sentencing. He was represented by Public Defender, Michael White, while prosecuting the case was Assistant Attorney General, Woodrow Pengelly.

When given the chance to address the court, Tei apologized for his actions and told the court that he’s truly remorseful for what he did. He also apologized to his village, church, especially to his family. He also told the court that the months he spend in prison teaches him a good lesson that breaking the law is not a good thing to do.

“I promise that I will never appear in this court again,” Tei told the court.

White told he court that his client took full responsibility for his actions and asked that his client’s request be granted — probation without additional jail time.

Pengelly echoed the defense’s submission, and asked the court to sentence the defendant to a term of probation of 5 years, without additional jail time.

Chief Justice Michael Kruse told White that according to the Pre Sentence Report (PSR) prepared by the Probation Office, the defendant did not accept responsibility for what happen. Kruse told White that his client did not agree that he broke inside a home and stole a laptop.

White responded that his client admitted taking the laptop, but he did not enter the house.

Pengelly told the court that according to the defendant’s statement to police, he found the laptop outside of the house inside a blue bag. He then gave the laptop to another person to sell.

“Where is the laptop,” Kruse asked. Pengelly said that the laptop was recovered by police and was returned to the owner.

Kruse told both attorneys that probation is asking for restitution. Pengelly stated that the laptop was the only evidence that was recovered by police during their investigation, however, if the restitution is based on other items that were stolen, that will be appropriate.

After reviewing all the information about the case, Kruse sentenced Tei to a term of imprisonment of 5 years. Execution of sentence was suspended and he is place on probation for a period of 5 years under certain conditions.

He is to serve a period of detention of 20 months at the Tafuna Correctional Facility (TCF) without any release. Execution of this period of detention is that, after serving 6 months at TCF, the defendant will be released, and will be given 90 days to seek and secure full employment.

If he fails to find a job within 90 days, the defendant will be arrested again and returned to TCF to serve the balance of the detention.

“The court will not order restitution pursuant to the government recommendation that the only evidence in this case was the laptop, and was already returned to the owner,” Kruse said.

Kruse then turned to the government’s attorney and said, “Government, there is a difference between your account and what the owner told Probation. According to the owner, police took the laptop and was keeping it until the case is over.”

For this reason, Kruse then ordered the government to show the receipt signed by the owner to the court — to prove that she had already received her laptop back.

Kruse turned to White and his client and asked, “Mr. Public Defender, did they find the actual burglar in this matter, or is that another mystery?”

White responded that he had no idea about that situation.