What started out as a normal ‘drinking session’ allegedly turns into a brutal beating
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Two men are now being charged in connection with the alleged brutal beating of a third man in Tafuna two months ago. The two men, Iona Valaau and Ieti Ameko, also known as “JET” Ameko made their initial appearances in District Court last month.
Valaau and Ameko are each charged with unlawful possession of methamphetamine (meth) and unlawful possession of marijuana, both unclassified felonies, punishable by a term of imprisonment from 5-10 years, a fine of up to $20,000, or both; along with 2nd degree assault and felonious restraint, both class D felonies, punishable by imprisonment for up to five years, a fine of up to $5,000, or both. They are also each charged with 3rd degree assault, a class A misdemeanor.
The court established bonds for each of the two defendants at $20,000, with the usual caveats, including not making any direct or indirect contact with the victim nor any of the government’s witnesses.
The two defendants are scheduled to appear in court next week for their preliminary hearing.
The government claims that on July 29th, 2021, a woman contacted the Tafuna Police Substation (TPS) regarding a possible assault case involving two men who allegedly assaulted another man in Tafuna, and she requested an investigation regarding the matter.
The victim is a 40-year-old father of six young children who works as an electrician at a local construction company. A Vice and Narcotics Unit detective was assigned as lead investigator in this matter, with assistance from three other police detectives.
According to the affidavit, when detectives arrived at scene, EMS personnel were already there and were assisting the victim. The victim at the time was still breathing but not responsive. The victim was transported by the EMS unit to the LBJ Hospital for further treatment.
Investigators started their investigation by interviewing several witnesses who were at the scene on the morning when the alleged incident occurred.
One eyewitness told the investigators that as he approached the corner of a store in Tafuna, he saw a male individual carrying and assisting the victim to his pickup truck, with the help of a security guard.
He stopped and asked the man what was happening with the victim; and the security guard informed the witness that victim was beaten up by two men who were having a drinking session at the back of the house across from the store.
The witness told investigators that he noticed blood on the victim’s facial area and grabbed him. Another man who was also at the store at that time assisted the security guard and another man to carry the victim to the pick-up truck.
The second witness was also interviewed by the investigators regarding this matter. She told investigators that she was inside the store when she heard people screaming outside of the store.
She went outside to check what going on and he saw two men beating up the victim at the back of the store by punching and kicking him while the victim was lying on the ground not moving.
The second witness told police that she knew the two men who allegedly assaulted the victim. They are Jonah and Jet. These were their call names.
Jonah was later identified as Iona Valaau and Jet was later identified as Ieti Ameko, a.k.a Jet Valaau.
The second witness also told investigators that when she came out of the store, she saw Valaau kick the victim’s head while the victim was lying on the ground. She also saw Ameko holding the victim’s hands together while Valaau assaulted him.
After assaulting the victim, the second witness saw both suspects rob the victim — removing all the stuff from inside his pockets, taking his bag and they disappeared from the scene.
Investigators questioned a third witness, who was at the scene when the alleged incident started.
According to the third witness, the two suspects were having a drinking session at the back of a house across from the store. They started their drinking session around 4p.m on that afternoon.
Around 8:31p.m on that same date, a vehicle came and parked at the back side of the store, two men exited the vehicle and walked into the store. A few moments later, both men exited the store and made their way to the vehicle. One of the two men was later identified as the victim in this case.
As both men were about to leave the area in their vehicle, one of the two suspects (Iona Valaau) approached the vehicle and spoke to the man who as sitting in the passenger’s seat. That man was the victim in this case.
Valaau approached the passenger’s side and spoke with the victim for about ten minutes before the victim decided to exit the vehicle and walked over with Valaau to the house across from the store to hang out with Valaau and his friend Ameko.
According to the government’s case, the victim and Valaau knew each other and that was why the victim agreed to stay with Valaau and Ameko while his friend left to go home in the vehicle.
According to the third witness’s statement to the investigator, the area where Valaau and Ameko were having their drinking session was dark, and you could hardly see any movement from under the breadfruit tree.
Later after the victim joined the two defendant’s drinking session, was when the beating started, according to the third witness’s statement to the investigator.
One week after the alleged incident, investigators interviewed the victim at the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at the LBJ Hospital.
The victim stated that as he and his male cousin made their way back to his vehicle after their shopping, a man approached his door and asked him for a chance to speak to him. The victim told investigators that he recognized the man as Valaau, a long time friend.
Valaau urged the victim to join him and his friend (Ameko) at the back of the house where they were hanging out there before going home. Valaau also told the victim that he would buy beer for him.
According to the victim, his male cousin left him in front of the store. Valaau went inside the store and bought a case of beer and that’s when they made their way to the back of the house where Valaau’s friend, Amerko was waiting.
The victim told investigators as he was speaking with Valaau, Ameko left the area and went to the store. The victim stated that he did not know the time Ameko returned from the store.
The victim stated that while he was speaking with Valaau, he noticed that Valaau was drunk, and he was surprised when Valaau punched him in the face. It was also at that time when he felt someone grab the collar of his T-shirt from behind and then punch him from behind.
The victim said Ameko choked him for a while and then restrained his hands while he was lying on the ground with Valaau continued punching him. The victim saw Valaau holding a hard piece of wood and attempting to strike him.
Ameko then got the hard wood from Valaau and allegedly swung at the victim hitting the left side of his face. The victim also stated that Ameko also used the hard wood to strangle him with and he was in and out consciousness during the assault but eventually was able to move.
The victim also stated to police that it was during that time when he heard people coming to help him. He said two men tried to stand him up and walk him to a pick-up before the EMS unit arrived at the scene.
Two weeks later after the alleged incident, Valaau and Ameko were both apprehended and taken into the TPS for further investigation. Before they were transported to the TPS, a body search was conducted on both of them for weapons.
During a body search on Valaau, cops discovered a glass pipe containing white crystalline substance and a small sized baggie containing green leafy substance inside his front pocket. Ameko was also searched and cops discovered one hand-rolled marijuana joint inside his wallet and one cut up straw containing white crystalline substance inside his rear pocket.
When questioned by investigators, Valaau admitted that he and his friend Ameko assaulted the victim after the victim told them that they were making too much noise and they should leave the area before he called police. Valaau said he punched the victim and his friend Ameko struck the victim’s head with a piece of hard wood.
Ameko also admitted to investigators that he assisted Valaau in assaulting the victim. Furthermore, Ameko also admitted that he used a piece of hard wood to strangle the victim while he was lying on the ground.
Valaau further told investigators that he had no idea what triggered the incident. He blamed his co-defendant Ameko for starting the incident. However, Ameko told investigators that it was Valaau who started the assault.
When questioned about the drugs, both defendants told investigators they got drugs from a friend. They refused to reveal their friend’s identity.