American Samoa Court Asked To Quash Arrest Warrant Against Samoa’s Minister Of Justice

2008 warrant against former attorney should be dismissed; has no merit and complainant is dead

By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (The Samoa News, June 15, 2016) – Local attorney Marcellus Talaimalo Uiagalelei has asked the District Court to quash a 2008 arrest warrant issued for former local practicing attorney and now Samoa government’s Minister of Justice and Courts Administration, Fa’aolesa Katopau Ainu’u.

According to the motion filed yesterday, the arrest warrant was issued by the court based on an affidavit filed Aug. 5, 2008 by an officer from OTICIDE (the Office of Territorial and International Criminal Intelligence and Drug Enforcement.)

Accompanying the affidavit was a criminal complaint, charging the defendant with one count each of embezzlement, criminal fraud, and stealing — all felonies. It also states that the charges were based on allegations that the defendant,  at the time he was a local, licensed attorney, received $5,000 from a client, who filed the complaint with police in late November 2006, for legal services that the defendant failed to provide. A bond of $10,000 was set at the time.

The client contacted the defendant, who had then transferred the client’s case to another local attorney, because the defendant was already in Samoa. The OTICIDE affidavit also states that the defendant gave $1,000 to the new attorney to take over the case. The client passed away last year.

In asking to quash the arrest warrant, Uiagalelei pointed to the affidavit by the local attorney to whom the case had been transferred,  and who also reviewed the case file provided by the defendant. Additionally, the affidavit shows the defendant had court filings and made court appearances for this client (the complainant).
Furthermore, the $5,000 the defendant had received from the complainant was applied to the work that was done and the remaining balance of $1,000 was remitted to the new attorney to take over the matter.

Uiagalelei also noted that the matter was reported to police around July 2008, about 20 months from the alleged date of the violation (Nov. 3, 2006), and almost a year from the date complainant met with the new attorney — which was Sept. 14, 2007.

By the time this matter was first investigated by the police in 2008, defendant was already well-settled in Samoa and certainly had no knowledge of such an investigation and accusations against him, according to Uiagalelei’s motion, which also says that the defendant didn’t receive any complaints from complainant, while he was alive, regarding the funds for the case and the defendant was never served with an arrest warrant or any process of the Court. 

“The first time defendant became aware of the existence of an arrest warrant against him was earlier this year when it was published by the news media in Samoa,” he said.  He further pointed out that the complainant has died and therefore defendant would not be able to confront his accuser if this matter were to go to trial. 

“Given the time that has lapsed in this matter, it may be very difficult for both sides to prosecute and defend such an action in court,” he argued. According to Uiagalelei, he has spoken to the complainant’s widow about the matter and she “does not wish to pursue this matter any further, and does agree to it being dismissed or withdrawn.”

Uiagalelei asked the court to quash the arrest warrant and to dismiss this matter with prejudice, and furthermore to grant an expedited hearing for this motion.

The Samoa News
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