AMERICAN SAMOA POLITICIAN ALLEGEDLY ASSAULTS WOMAN

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House Vice Speaker faces misdemeanor charges

By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO, America Samoa (Samoa News, June 3, 2009)—House Vice Speaker Laolagi Savali Vaeao has been summoned by the District Court to appear Friday morning to answer to a misdemeanor charge in connection with an incident that occurred last month. Laolagi, who represents Manu’a District #2, is facing one count of public peace disturbance for an incident that occurred on May 15.

In the incident, the defendant allegedly "intended to cause public inconvenience, annoyance, or alarm, or reckless[ly] creating the risk of it [by] engaging in fighting or in violent or threatening behavior," according to court documents.

The charge is a class B misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for six months, a fine of $500 or both.

According to a court affidavit, it was the morning of May 15 that a local resident contacted police to report an attack against herself, in which the defendant allegedly choked her outside the Read to Me Samoa office in Nu’uuli.

The affidavit states police interviewed three employees of Read to Me Samoa who were witnesses to the event. A police investigation and the statement of the witnesses determined that Laolagi assaulted the victim "by choking her and putting his hand over her mouth."

According to the affidavit, the victim and another person were crossing the street at the crossroad in front of the Read to Me Office and as they entered the road, a vehicle sped past them, nearly missing the victim, who swore to the driver of the vehicle — telling the driver "Can’t you see us crossing on the crosswalk."

The driver of the vehicle, later identified in court documents as Laolagi, stopped the car, backed up and parked on the side of the road, said the affidavit. He then got out and went towards the victim and choked her, telling her "Do your parents teach you any good?"

It is at this time the driver allegedly put his hand on the victim’s mouth and shook her. After the driver let the victim go, both of them went into the Read to Me Samoa Office where police were called.

In the office, the driver identified himself as Laolagi Savali Vaeao and stated in the office that he needed to leave but that he could be reached at his office at the Fono.

When interviewed by police later that day, the defendant agreed that he had almost hit the victim with his car and that the victim had sworn at him, the affidavit states.

The defendant also agreed that he exited the vehicle and put his hand over the victim’s mouth for her disrespectful outburst, but "denied choking" the victim, according to the affidavit.

Friday’s hearing will be the defendant’s first appearance in the case, which was officially filed in District Court on Monday.

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