Deputy Court Registrar found not guilty
A Deputy Court Registrar, Victory Lesa, who was accused in relation to a rifle that went missing from the Ministry of Justice and Courts Administration (M.J.C.A.) has been found not guilty.
The charge of theft as a servant for allegedly stealing the SAR 8 Springfield rifle against Lesa, who was suspended, was dismissed.
The decision was delivered by Justice Mata Keli Tuatagaloa in the Supreme Court on Friday.
Lucy Sio Ofoia of the Attorney General’s Office was the prosecutor while lawyer Aumua Ming Leung Wai represented Lesa.
The defendant initially faced three charges, namely possession of firearm without a valid certificate, possession of an unlawful weapon and theft as a servant.
However, the prosecution in there submission earlier this month withdrew the two firearm related charges and proceeded with theft as the servant charge.
The firearm in question was an exhibit for a Satapuala case heard in the District Court in 2013. It was in the custody of the Ministry of Justice.
In delivering her decision, Justice Tuatagaloa said prosecution conceded that there was no direct evidence of anyone seeing the defendant take the rifle from the Ministry of Justice room.
Prosecution had submitted to consider the evidence in totality that the defendant was an employee of M.J.C.A. at the time when the rifle was in their custody and eventually went missing.
The missing rifle was found in the possession of one of prosecution's main witnesses, Lonino Aumua, sometimes in 2018 during a Police operation at Faleula.
“There is no evidence directly or circumstantial evidence that the defendant took the rifle from M.J.C.A. and the room that the rifle was kept in was unlocked and can be accessed by any of the staff, members of the public and prisoners at the time posted in M.J.C.A.,” said Justice Tuatagaloa.
“Prosecution must prove the charge without reasonable doubt. Part of the evidence from Lonino and his wife were inconsistent with evidence as to the circumstances of the giving of the rifle at Vailima.
“This inconsistency shows doubt to the prosecution case. I find the evidence of Lonino’s wife unstable and several things come to mind that seems to suggest the evidence was coached.”
Justice Tuatagaloa pointed out she cannot ignore the evidence of mechanic Sammy Sam, which the defendant sold the white van in 2011.
The witnesses of prosecution namely Lonino and his wife were adamant the vehicle the defendant came in at Vailima was the white van sometimes in 2013. At that time the van has already been sold to someone else.
The Judge also said the prosecution’s main witness, Lonino, has a history of offending and relates to possession of unlawful firearms which has an impact on his credibility as a witness.
After considering the defendant’s “unblemished record with 30 years of service in M.J.C.A as a Court Registrar”, Justice Tuatagaloa said she is not satisfied beyond unreasonable doubt that the charge against him is proven.
The charge was dismissed.
Speaking to the Samoa Observer outside Court, Lesa said he was relieved the case has finally ended.
“I thank the Lord that it is now cleared and the truth has come out in Court,” said Lesa.
“I would also like to acknowledge my parents and family for their support during this whole time. It has not been easy going through this but I am thankful that the truth is made known.”
Lesa indicated he intends to continue his service with the Ministry of Justice.