Village Chief files appeal, claims Judge erred

By Joyetter Feagaimaali’i-Luamanu ,

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Fofogamua Hawaii Lavea.

Fofogamua Hawaii Lavea. (Photo: Samoa Observer)

A village chief convicted of falsifying a certificate to register a matai title, has filed an appeal with the Court, arguing that the trial Judge “erred in fact and in law”. 

Fofogamua Hawaii Lavea, who is represented by Tauili’ili Harry Schuster, filed an application to stay the execution of sentencing until the appeal is determined by the Court of Appeal. 

The matter was heard before Supreme Court Justice Tafaoimalo Leilani Tuala.

Prosecuting the case is Lucy Maria Sio of the Attorney General’s Office, who opposed the application.

Last year, Supreme Court Justice, Vui Clarence Nelson, sentenced Fofogamua Hawaii to serve one year and six months in jail. 

Vui told the defendant at the sentencing hearing “there must be no misunderstanding about the message the Court is sending to all title holders and would be title holders in the country.

“You do this and falsify a saofai certificate; this is likely your fate.” 

According to the application filed by defense, they are seeking the Court to grant the appellant leave to appeal his conviction on the charge of forgery and using false document. 

They also sought to stay execution of the sentence until the appeal is determined by the Court of Appeal. 

“Granting bail to the appellant upon such terms and conditions” as the court deems appropriate. 

The grounds of the motion are that “the trial judge erred in fact and in law; it is in the interest of justice and the defendant has the right of appeal under the criminal procedures Act.” 

The Attorney General’s Office opposes the application noting that the trial Judge did not err in fact and in law determining the case. 

“That the verdict of guilty to one count of forgery and one count of using a forged document against Hawaii Lavea was not unreasonable and or was supported having regard to the evidence. 

“That there was no miscarriage of justice,” according to the prosecution’s response. 

Ms. Sio further indicated the sentence of 18 months was manifestly excessive.  Justice Vui did not err in law when considering the mitigating factors submitted on the appellant’s behalf. 

Also there was no miscarriage of justice. According to the prosecution’s response, the defendant has not on the balance of probabilities shown cause to grant bail. 

“The grounds relied upon have no apparent strength.” 

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