A.G. seeks review of suspended cop's case

The Attorney General's office has contracted a predecessor in the role to provide independent legal advice on a criminal case involving an alleged fatal beating and a suspended Police prosecutor. 

The Attorney General, Lemalu Hermann Retzlaff, confirmed to the Samoa Observer that his office had contracted Taulapapa Brenda Heather-Latu, to assist in reviewing the case of Sergeant Khamtahn Stanley. Taulapapa is a former long-serving Attorney General who resigned more than nine years ago.

The Sergeant, a non-commissioned Officer, was suspended from Police duty last November following a fatal beating in Vaiusu two months ago. 

Penitito Toma died after allegedly being beaten to death in an incident last November to which Police believe alcohol may have been a contributing factor. 

But speaking in response to criticisms made by members of Mr. Toma's family about the case's progression, Lemalu clarified that independent advice needed to be sought to ensure objectivity in the case's handling. 

The suspended Police prosecutor was working under the umbrella of the Attorney General's office at the time of the incident. 

Lemalu responded to questions from the Samoa Observer on Saturday night to state that the case file had been referred for an independent review. 

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“The sworn officer involved in this matter worked as a police prosecutor with our office for many years," the Attorney General said in a written statement. 

“The file has therefore been referred to Taulapapa Brenda Heather-Latu for an independent review of the evidence of the Police investigation file to return with any advice and recommendations.” 

The Attorney General did not specify when the file was referred to Taulapapa or when official advice is expected to be provided in return. 

"To ensure a fair process for all the families involved, the appropriate steps are being taken to secure an objective review of this matter," he said.

Meanwhile, members of the late Mr. Toma's family last week raised questions about what, if any, progress had been made on the case, two months since authorities informed them he had been involved in a fatal altercation. 

Last month the Police Commissioner, Fuiavailiili Egon Keil, said the investigation had been completed and the case file was referred to the Office of the Attorney General.

This week the Samoa Observer questioned the status of the criminal matter following complaints from the deceased family.

The Sergeant had prosecuted a number of high-profile cases during a career with the Ministry of the Police which saw him rise quickly through the ranks. 

It is understood that another suspect in the case is a high chief from the village of Vaiusu. 

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