AMERICAN SAMOA LAWMAKER PLACED ON PROBATION FOR ROLE IN ID SCANDAL

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By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (January 6, 2000 - PIDP/CPIS)---A lawmaker sworn into office on Wednesday by Chief Justice Michael Kruse was sentenced by the same judge 24-hours later for his role in the voter identification scandal.

Chief Justice Kruse presided over the swearing in ceremony on Wednesday for the 21-member territorial House of Representatives, which included Rep. Gaoteote Palaie Tofau for another two-year term.

But on Thursday in the High Court, Kruse placed Rep. Gaoteote on two-years court-supervised probation with the possibility of spending up to a year in jail if Gaoteote violates the terms of his probation.

Gaoteote appeared before Justice Kruse to be sentenced for his role in an illegal scheme to obtain false voter identification cards for six members of his village's cricket team seeking to travel to the U.S. for a tournament in 1999. The six members were from Samoa.

Although originally charged by the government with several felony counts, Gaoteote agreed to plead no contest to two misdemeanor charges of Issuance of a False Certificate, in return for the government dropping all the felony charges.

Each of the misdemeanor charges is punishable by a prison term of up to one year and/or a $1,000 fine.

Kruse suspended sentencing for two years and placed Rep. Gaoteote on a two-year court supervisory probation under the condition that the lawmaker remains a law abiding citizen for the terms of the probation, cooperate with the government in their fake voter ID investigation and pay a fine of $1,000 for each of the two charges to which he pleaded no contest. 

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