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Woman charged with pot possession in "he said, she said" case


Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — District Court Judge Pro Tem Gwen Tauiliili-Langkilde has denied a motion to reduce bail for a young woman charged with unlawful possession of an illegal substance (marijuana).

Therefore, Grace Tagaloa's bail remains at $5,000

Tagaloa made her initial appearance yesterday and through her attorney, Assistant Public Defender Anna Wells, she has entered a 'not guilty' plea to the single possession charge against her.

A preliminary examination (PX) is set for this Friday, Feb. 15.

Tagaloa appeared in court after she was detained under a 48-hour hold at the Territorial Correctional Facility (TCF) pending the issuance of an arrest warrant.

According to the government's case, Tagaloa and a male were taken in for questioning at the DPS Tafuna substation on Feb. 3.

The criminal complaint notes that Tagaloa and a male, identified as Lemi Fiu were riding in a taxi that pulled into the Tafuna substation parking lot on the day in question. A police officer allegedly saw Tagaloa throw an object "across and over the head of the male passenger, who was sitting directly across from her."

The police officer claims that the object went past Fiu's head and out through the right rear door of the vehicle. The cop approached the taxi to look at what was thrown and according to his statement, it "appeared to be a hand-rolled cigarette" of a green leafy substance, lying on the ground next to the taxi.

The officer said he picked up the cigarette and then asked both passengers to go into the substation for questioning.

"Both of them pointed at each other, and blamed each other," said the officer.

Tagaloa and Fiu were put into two separate rooms.

According to Fiu, he and Tagaloa were at a party earlier that evening and Tagaloa "got drunk." He said he was trying to take the defendant home "but she was too drunk" so he called a taxi because he wanted to go home.

Fiu told police he was going to leave but changed his mind and decided to take Tagaloa with him, because she didn't know anyone at the party.

Fiu claims that Tagaloa told him that she had already called a female cop at the Tafuna Substation "and told Fiu to go there," according to the criminal complaint.

According to Fiu, on their way to the substation, Tagaloa "was cussing and yelling" at him, and the "suspected marijuana joint belongs to Tagaloa."

He claims that Tagaloa "threw out the marijuana joint to make it look like it was him who threw it out of the taxi, and that he'll get blamed for it."

Fiu told police he was only trying to take Tagaloa home.

The police officer who filed the report claims that while Fiu was being interviewed, Tagaloa "was shouting and yelling profane words in the dispatcher's room" while an officer was trying to calm her down.

The police officer said Tagaloa "was claiming that she was the victim, because she called 911" for assistance after her boyfriend took off with her purse, which contained money and all her documents.

Tagaloa's boyfriend, according to the court affidavit, had returned to a local hotel to pick Tagaloa up and that's when the two got into an altercation. An officer did inform Tagaloa that she can file a complaint against her boyfriend for taking her bag, but Tagaloa chose not to.

According to the police report, the defendant refused to make a statement after she was read her rights. The investigating officer however claims that Tagaloa "appeared to have been drinking," and a strong odor of alcohol was emitting from her breath.

According to the criminal complaint, a small portion of the hand-rolled cigarette tested positive  for THC, the active ingredient in marijuana.

During yesterday's court proceedings, defense counsel Wells argued that her client is a first time offender, and she is gainfully employed. But Judge Tauiliili-Langkilde denied the motion to reduce bond, referring to the "seriousness" of the crime, a felony, for which the minimum bond — under the law — is $5,000.

The Judge said the bail amount can be in the form of surety, cash, or a combination of both.

Tagaloa was remanded to custody yesterday morning.

Unlawful possession of a controlled substance (marijuana) is a felony punishable by not less than 5 and not more than 10 years imprisonment, and a fine of not less than $5,000 or more than $20,000 or both.