Arsonist To Complete Community Service Before Sentencing

About the author:

Tina Mata'afa-Tufele is a Pasifika journalist that has been writing and covering news related to the Samoan experience for over a decade. She's written for Samoa News in American Samoa, (covering news from Hawaii, the U.S.

  • ​​​​​​​Justice Tafaoimalo Leilani Tuala Warren
    ​​​​​​​Justice Tafaoimalo Leilani Tuala Warren

A father who burned down a house in Nofoali’i last year but has since reconciled his illegal actions with the victim and the village through an ifoga and a $SAT4,000 fine, appeared before Supreme Court Justice Tafaoimalo Leilani Tuala Warren on Friday for pre-sentencing.

The defendant, Sapati Lalotoa, is due to be sentenced late this year in November. The court has scheduled sentencing for November in order to provide Lalotoa with sufficient time to complete his 400 hours of court-ordered community service.

State prosecutors Quentin Sauaga and Avei Faasii are seeking four years imprisonment for the defendant, a father of nine children, seven of whom are currently enrolled in school.

Lalotoa, a first-time offender, is accused of arson, theft and burglary.  In earlier proceedings, he pleaded guilty to the charges.

Defense attorney Leiataualesa Komisi Koria told the court his client is a planter and farmer who works five days a week to provide for his family and that he is the only breadwinner in the household.

The income he earns is used to pay his children’s school fees, contribute to Church and village obligations and to support parent-teacher associations at Nuuausala College and Nofoali’i Primary School where his children are enrolled.

The defendant is an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Nofoali’i. He received several positive character references including a letter from the Bishop at Nofoali’i.

He said Lalotoa has showed remorse and that his family apologized to the complainant.

“An ifoga was performed and it was well received by the complainant,” Leiataualesa said.

The village council of Nofoali’i imposed a $SAT4,000 fine. One fourth of the fine was kept by the village council and $SAT3,000 was given to the victim.

Leiataualesa said the value of goods the victim lost is $SAT2,427.

Defense seeks a non-custodial sentence for Lalotoa so he can provide for his wife and children. Additionally, they ask that the court refrain from convicting the defendant.

Leitaualesa said alcohol was involved and the defendant is willing to undergo alcohol programs to satisfy the court.

The court was told by prosecution that the victim’s house was burned down completely and defense said the fire was started by accident.

Justice Tafaoimalo said “it will be difficult to avoid a conviction” but granted Lalotoa time to complete his 400 hours community service before sentencing in early November.

She told the defendant he is to refrain from drinking alcohol.