Young man sentenced after admitting to stealing a vehicle after out ‘clubbing’
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — During sentencing for a young man convicted of stealing a vehicle while he was intoxicated, Associate Justice, Fiti Sunia stated that any time a person is intoxicated and drives a vehicle on the road, the vehicle becomes a deadly weapon.
Mealeaga Ale, who had been in custody since his arrest last year, unable to post a $10,000 surety bond appeared in High Court this week for sentencing.
Ale was initially charged with one count of first degree burglary and one count of stealing, both class C felonies, punishable by imprisonment of up to 7 years, a $5,000 fine or, pursuant to A.S.C.A 46.2101, a fine equal to twice the amount of gain from the commission of said crime, up to a maximum of $20,000, or both such fine and imprisonment.
Under a plea agreement with the government, accepted by the court in March of this year, Ale pled guilty to stealing. By his guilty plea, Ale admits that on Oct. 19, 2019, he stole a vehicle belonging to another person.
When given the chance to address the court, Ale apologized for his action and immediately begged for a second chance to return home to be with his mother and do something good for his family. Ale told the court that while living in prison for many months, that sometime it’s really tough for him to handle the life of being a prisoner.
Defense attorney, McNeill told the court that his client is a young man who has shown true remorse for his action. Despite the seriousness of his client’s action, McNeill told the court that his client had no intention to hurt anybody with his action, however, the defendant knows for sure that the victim was stressed when he woke up in the next morning and saw that his vehicle was gone.
McNeill told the court that his client is a suitable candidate for a probated sentencing.
Prosecutor, Assistant Attorney Laura Garvey echoed the defense’s submission and asked the court to adopt the recommendation by Probation contained in the Pre Sentence Report (PSR).
In delivering his decision, Sunia said that Ale’s conviction stems from an incident after the defendant visited a bar at night, and then took a vehicle of another person without that person’s consent.
The defendant is a first offender and according to the PSR, the defendant is an individual who had a really steady upbringing where he completed high school and was also employed. The report goes on to say the defendant is an individual who received some sort of parental counsel to teach him right from wrong. Nevertheless, this is a serious incident.
One thing the court was trying to understand, was why Ale was never charged with driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI). Every time you are intoxicated and operate a vehicle on the road, the vehicle becomes a deadly weapon, Sunia said.
He said that this is the first time when a defendant who was caught by police driving under the influence was never charged. The court said that someone could have died because of this defendant’s action on the night of the incident. Sunia wanted to know the reason why there was no report about the defendant being intoxicated when he was pulled over by police.
The prosecutor told the court that the reason is included in paragraph 8 of the police affidavit, saying, “According to the defendant, he and his friend were intoxicated after leaving Ice Breakers club where they then walked to Ottoville.” It was later that they went to the victim’s home and saw the vehicle parked on the side of his house.
Ale was sentenced to 7 years imprisonment. Execution of the sentence was suspended and Ale was placed on probation for 5 years subject to several conditions.
Ale is ordered to pay a fine of $2,000 within the first 6 months of his probation, and attend and complete alcohol counseling coordinated by the Probation office.
He was sentenced to serve 20 months at the TCF and credited for the 199 days he already served. The balance of the detention was stayed until further order of the court. Ale was released from detention forthwith.
“Mr. Ale, once you are arrested and charged, you’re just like many other defendants in our eyes. We don’t care who you are and which family you’re from,” Sunia told Ale. If he violates any conditions of his probation, Ale was informed by the court that he would receive the same treatment like all other defendants, where the court will revoke his probation.
Probation review is set at Nov. 5, 2020.
Chief Associate Judge Mamea Sala Jr and Associate Judge Tumupopo Alalafaga Tunupopo assisted Sunia on the bench.
The government claims that on Oct. 19, 2019 around 6:15a.m, the Central Police Station received a phone called the Tafuna Substation, informing that a man called the 911 Emergency lines reporting his vehicle (Vehicle License #8167) had been stolen from his home.
After speaking to the victim, investigators radioed to all police units on the road to look for the vehicle, and when found to impound it at a nearby police station.
The victim also stated to police that he had items still in his vehicle such as a black backpack; personnel items, vehicle documents and keys, a blue backpack; Apple Laptop and black Apple iPad.
The vehicle was kept in a carport that was attached to the victim’s house.
The vehicle was seen speeding on the highway around 6:44 a.m in the Nu’uuli area, heading east. It was stopped, and the driver cited for speeding. The vehicle was escorted to the defendant’s home in Iliili, near the Golf Course area.
According to a female individual who was contacted by police, in the early morning at about 5:00a.m on the same date, Ale called her asking her to take the vehicle and hide it. Ale also told her that he had stolen the vehicle.
According to the defendant’s statement to investigators, he and his friends were intoxicated after leaving Ice Breakers club on the night of Oct. 18, 2019 when they walked to Ottoville and then went to the victim’s home and saw the vehicle parked on the side of the house.
Defendant got into the vehicle and started it, then drove where he dropped off his friend at home and continued to Faganeanea to pick up his girlfriend, this was when he was stopped by police officers in Nuuuli for speeding.