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Young mother gets 12-month prison term for stealing and burglary

American Samoa High Court building
Plea agreement dismisses 2 other cases against her — forgery & ice possession

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — A 35-year-old mother convicted of stealing a laptop when she burglarized a home is going to jail.

Ienisei Matautia, who has been in custody since she was arrested last October, unable to post bond, appeared in High Court yesterday morning for sentencing. She was represented by Assistant Public Defender Rob McNeill, while prosecuting the case was Assistant Attorney General Laura Garvey.

Matautia was originally charged in 3 separate cases.

In the first case, she was charged with forgery and stealing, both class C felonies. In the second case, she was charged with second degree burglary and stealing, both class C felonies, along with trespass, a class A misdemeanor. And for the third case, she was charged with unlawful possession of a controlled substance (methamphetamine) and unlawful possession of methamphetamine with the intent to distribute.

But under a plea agreement, Matautia pled guilty to second degree burglary and stealing in the second case, each punishable by imprisonment of not more than 7 years, a fine of not more than $5,000 or both.

With her guilty plea, Matautia admits that on Mar. 28, 2018 she unlawfully entered the home of another person with the purpose of committing a crime. While in the home, Matautia stole a laptop that was on the table, valued at more than $100.

The defense’s first witness yesterday was Matautia’s father, who testified about his relationship with his daughter before she was arrested last year.

According to the father, Ienisei is a helpful daughter who made a careless mistake that tore their relationship apart, after she was arrested and stayed in prison while he and his wife (defendant’s mother) took care of her children.

“I’m not here to change any decision from the court. My daughter was wrong and she violated laws of the territory. Her actions are our actions too, because she is part of us,” the father continued.

He asked the court for forgiveness and begged to allow his daughter to come home so he and his wife can have the chance to discipline her accordingly, to make her a better person.

When given the chance to speak, Mata’utia apologized to the victim for her actions and asked for forgiveness. She said she's fully aware that she broke the law, which affected the lives of innocent people who did not deserve to be victims.

She asked the court for a second chance so she can change her life and prove that she can become a better person. She said the 7 months she spent in prison has helped her, it taught her a lesson, and allowed her to meditate to God and seek His forgiveness.

Mata’utia apologized to her parents — who were both in court during sentencing — for abandoning her duty as a daughter and mother. She promised that if she is given a second chance, she will use it wisely, to care for her parents and children, and seek gainful employment to pay for her fine and restitution.

Defense attorney McNeill asked the court for a probated sentence, saying Mata’utia is a young mother who made a careless mistake. He said he agreed with the Pre Sentence Report (PSR) that his client is a drug addict and has a meth problem that needs to be addressed.

McNeill said his client is truly remorseful wants to return to her family to care for her children and parents. He said if the court allows Matautia to go home, she needs to seek assistance for her drug problem because if the issue is not addressed, she will be back in  court again.

Prosecutor Garvey echoed McNeill statement, that the defendant is a suitable candidate for probation. Garvey reminded the court that part of their global plea agreement with the defendant, is that she'll pay restitution for the laptop she stole.

Judge Elvis. P. Patea said that according to the PSR, this young mother did a lot for her parents and her children. She completed high school and continued on to ASCC to further her education. However, despite the fact that she did not graduate from college, she managed to get a job to care for her parents, and at the same time started her own young family with children.

Somewhere on her path, she associated with friends who deal with alcohol and illegal drugs, which ended up with a not-so-good lifestyle for her.

Patea told Mata’utia that good thing for her, she only has 2 misdemeanor convictions in her criminal record.

“We believe you are truly remorseful for your actions, and we also take into account your father’s statement and the plea mitigation by both parties; therefore, we agree that you are a suitable candidate for a probated sentence,” Patea told the defendant.

For 2nd degree burglary and stealing, the court sentenced Matautia to 7 years imprisonment for each count. The terms are to run concurrently (at the same time). Execution of sentence is suspended and she is placed on probation for 7 years subject to several conditions.

She shall serve a period of 28 months detention at the Territorial Correctional Facility (TCF). All but 12 months is stayed, and she is credited for the 7 months she has already served. This means Matautia will have to serve 5 more months before she is released.

She is ordered to pay a $2,000 fine within 6 months, and restitution of $250.


One of the cases accuses Matautia of forging the signature on a check she stole and later cashed. The other alleges that she tried to deliver methamphetamine to the TCF.

These two cases were dismissed by the court as part of the global plea agreement.