Man thrown back in jail for marijuana peddling

A serial offender, who previously served close to 10 years in jail for marijuana possession, has been slapped with an additional 20 months imprisonment. 

Alisa Fuamatu, 36, of Lauli'i, appeared before Supreme Court Justice Tafaoimalo Leilani Tuala Warren on Tuesday for sentencing on three separate charges: three counts of possession of narcotics (marijuana).

His most recent offense was being in possession of marijuana at the market in Savalalo and throwing the illicit drug on to the ground in an attempt to conceal it when the Police tried to apprehend him. 

On Thursday, September 27, 2018 the defendant was at the market in Savalalo in front of a store when police spotted him. He threw the marijuana joints that were wrapped in a foil to the ground, which the police officers found and took him to the station for questioning.

At the police station they also discovered marijuana leaves inside an empty Pall Mall cigarette packet next to the defendant in the back seat of the police vehicle as well as 22 marijuana joints in his possession. 

He initially pleaded not guilty to the charge, then missed his trial date and later changed his plea to guilty on July 11 last year.

In relation to the other narcotics possession charge (marijuana), the police received a call on January 31, 2018 about people drinking on the seawall by the Savalalo market.

Police were on their way to the crime scene when they passed the BSP Bank and heard a man cry out for help. The victim told the police that the defendant and co-defendant (Junior) in the matter stole his mobile phone.

Police saw the defendant and his accomplice get into a taxi in front of the R.S.A. nightclub attempting to leave the scene.

The Police approached the taxi and asked the defendant to get out of the taxi cab. 

The defendant complied but handed a bag to Junior who was seated in the front seat of the taxi.

When the bag changed hands, three marijuana joints fell out of the bag leading to the pair being taken to the police station for questioning. 

Defense counsel Afamasaga Michael Soonalole told the Court that his client uses marijuana for his ailments – to help relieve the pain of a heart condition as well as headache.

“That is why he uses these illegal substances,” Afamasaga submitted to the Court, “For when he feels pain.”

In a character reference letter that was submitted to the Court, the defendant’s mother wrote that she relies on her son to sell handicraft items at the Savalalo Market to support their family.

The money the defendant makes is to support his elderly mother and his children.

As the defendant has been in custody for seven months for his most recent crimes, Afamasaga asked that the seven months be an adequate sentence from the Court.

But Justice Tafaoimalo noted that from 2002–2015, the defendant had six convictions for being in possession of marijuana.

“That is aside from your convictions for other offenses. Now the offending I am reading today, are from the years 2017 to 2018 so that is in total 18 years of you constantly being in the justice system. You have spent almost 10 years of those 18 years in prison,” she said.

“You’re only 36 years old. I’m told you have five children and an elderly mother. Now if you were truly remorseful you would have been remorseful earlier than today. Your counsel has suggested programs. I take it he means a drug program. I don’t think you’re eligible for a drug program...and I actually don’t think that given the long history of your narcotics offending that any program will be suitable for you.”

The only deterrent sentence available for the defendant is prison, Justice Tafaimalo said.

She convicted and sentenced the defendant on three separate narcotics matters: eight months for a 29 July 2017 narcotics possession charge; 10 months in prison for narcotics possession on 31 January, 2018 and two months in prison for narcotics possession on 27 September, 2018.

The sentences must be served cumulatively, though he also received credit for the seven months served.

“Now please know Alisa that if you come out of jail and you keep offending, the court will keep sending you back to jail,” Justice Tafaoimalo added. 

Prosecutor on the case was Quentin Sauaga. The defendant was remanded in custody after his sentencing.

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