Corruption charge against Inspector withdrawn
A corruption charge against suspended Police Inspector Toleafoa Keti Toleafoa was withdrawn from the Supreme Court on Monday the first day of the trial.
Toleafoa and two other police officers are jointly charged in relation to a traffic matter in August last year that involved the Shipping Corporation, Assistant Chief Executive Officer, George Poutoa.
The other two officers are Evile Malota Mano and Kolisi Tupu.
The National Prosecution Office lawyer, Lucy Sio asked the Court to withdraw four charges. Those charges include being a party to an offence of tampering with evidence, conspiracy to defeat the course of justice and making false entries against Toleafoa and Mr. Mano.
Ms Sio told the Court that the Prosecution would proceed with the remaining three charges against the police officers.
The officers are jointly charged with obstruction of justice, false entry or recording and false wording to which they pleaded not guilty.
Supreme Court Judge, Vui Clarence Nelson is presiding.
Toleafoa is represented by lawyer Leota Raymond Schuster while Pau Tafaogalupe Mulipola is standing for the other two officers.
The man who is in the middle of the dispute, George Poutoa took the stand.
Mr. Poutoa told the Court that in August last year, it was the day that he had been drinking at a friend’s house in Fa’atoia.
As he drove home, but he was pulled over by police at Moto’otua.
On that day he took a breathalyzer test and was later told by two police officers that he exceeded the minimum alcohol percentage.
“The officer told me I had to go to Police station and wait for their officer in charge’s instructions,” said Mr. Poutoa. “I asked them if I could go home because I could still drive, but they said I had to wait for their officer in charge.”
When the witness was asked by the prosecutor if there was anything else that he was asked to do by police officers, Mr. Poutoa said he could not remember.
“I cannot remember; maybe it’s because I was afraid I might get locked up,” he added.
He recalled that when Toleafoa, who was the officer in charge came to see him, he was asked to leave his car at the office and take a taxi home.
“I know Toleafoa very well because his family owns a car business,” he said.
“I continued to ask him if I could take my car home, but he said my car was safe at the station and I could pick it up in the morning.”
The lawyer for Toleafoa, Leota asked the witness if there was a time when Toleafoa told him that he would be held in custody.
In response Mr. Poutoa said yes.
“Is it true that Toleafoa said to you, ‘This is a warning and it will be your first and last chance?” asked Leota.
The witness replied yes.
“And you had told Toleafoa not to take you into custody because your wife was at home alone and you needed to go home to her because she was by herself?” said Leota.
Again Mr. Poutoa said yes.
It was at this point that Justice Vui asked the witness if anyone had said to him that he would be held in custody.
In response, Mr. Poutoa changed his answer and said, no.
During cross examination, Ms. Sio asked the defendant about his two different responses to the one question.
“The Honorable Judge asked you if anyone told you that you would be taken into custody, and your reply was no,” said Ms Sio.
“My lawyer friend also asked you if Toleafoa told you that you would be taken into custody and you said yes. Which one is your answer to the question?”
The witness stood for a few seconds until he responded that he now remembered that Toleafoa did tell him that he would be taken into custody.
“But I don’t remember what time he said this because I was inside the station and there was a time I came outside…”
Lawyer Pau also questioned the witness about the breathalyzer test that he took.
He asked the witness if he had smoked before he took the breathalyzer.
Mr. Poutoa replied that he had and had thrown his cigarette away before he took the test.
Pau continued to question the witness about how many minutes it was between throwing out his cigarette and taking the breathalyzer.
It was during this line of questions that Justice Vui intervened and asked the lawyer about the relevancy of his questions.
Pau’s response was that he was trying to establish his argument that smoking does have an impact on the breathalyzer outcome.
Justice Vui then asked the lawyer if he had any science to back up his argument and if there was also an expert who would be called to support it.
Pau said while he did not have an expert witness, “I do have downloaded materials from the internet”.
Justice Vui accepted this and wished the lawyer “good luck”.
The trial continues.