Am. Samoa Chief Justice: Warn Visitors About Local Laws

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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i

Foreigners should be aware how serious drug, sex offenses are

By Joyetter Feagaimaalii-Luamanu

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (The Samoa News, Dec. 9, 2015) – Chief Justice Michael Kruse has called on the American Samoa Government to consider warning foreigners and the traveling public who enter the territory how serious local law enforcement takes some crimes in the territory — namely sexual assault and the unlawful possession of the controlled substance of marijuana. His comments was made during the sentencing of Don Bosco adult volunteer who was charged together with two Don Bosco students who came into the territory as part of the contingency from Samoa that came to participate in the Flag Day festivities this year.

According to Kruse, there are two crimes in which many foreigners are implicated when they enter the territory and suggested that the Tourism Authority should do something about it. Speaking directly to the attorneys with the Attorney General’s office in court last Friday, Kruse pointed out that the Tourism office should come up with ways to inform foreigners who enter the territory about the laws in American Samoa.

He noted that bringing marijuana into the territory is punishable with five years in jail and sexual assault of minors carries a jail term of five to 15 years in jail. Kruse suggested that the Tourism office should disseminate this information so foreigners will know the seriousness of these crimes.

Kruse made it clear that he is not commenting on the numbers of foreigners who are currently at the jail, but wanted to make note that while the court continues to hand down sentencing in these cases, there is a continuation of the crimes in the territory.

Commissioner of Public Safety, Save Liuato Tuitele agrees with the Chief Justice noting that this could help alleviate the overcrowding problem at TCF. He also noted that signs should be posted at the airport and the wharf in Hawai’i and Samoa informing the traveling population of the jail time they may serve if they violate the territory’s laws. He went on to say that passengers don’t know that local customs agents have drug dogs and that is why they bring drugs into the territory thinking there is no way a remote island could detect drugs in their possession.

The latest drug case was a passenger on Hawaiian Airlines who was caught by a drug dog in October 2015. Benjamin Brian Loma was charged with one criminal count of unlawful possession of the controlled substance of marijuana, which in American Samoa is a felony punishable by five years and not more than ten years, a fine of between $5,000 up to $20,000 or both — a pretty tough sentence for an offense that has been decriminalized or made legal in some U.S. states and foreign countries.

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