Chef Sentenced To Cook for SVSG

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.

  • FILE PHOTO: Chef at work
    FILE PHOTO: Chef at work

A chef who spent nearly two months in prison after he was charged with possession of narcotics has been sentenced by the Supreme Court to cook for the children at Samoa Victims Support Group (SVSG).

Supreme Court Justice Leiataualesa Daryl Clarke told the defendant, Afoa Viavia, 35, that he has “many skills” and given the quantity (5.5 grams) of marijuana involved, the court accepts that a community-based sentence is appropriate.

Viavia must complete 50 hours of community work by using his cooking skills to help the children at SVSG, said Justice Leiataualesa. If he does not want to carry out the community service work at SVSG, Viavia can request a different place through his probations officer.

Additionally, he has been given six months probation.

Police say they were driving along on Faleata Road when they caught Viavia with marijuana. The defendant was smoking a joint as he walked along Faleata Road and when police passed him, they could smell marijuana. 

Police approached Viavia and conducted a body search that discovered a plastic bag containing marijuana (3.2 grams) leaves. It was enough marijuana for four joints.

When police searched the area, they found a joint and a half. Viavia pleaded guilty to the narcotics possession charge.

Prosecutor Fuifui Ioane asked the court to place Viavia on probation for 12 months.

Defense attorney Tima Leavai said her client used marijuana to relax from the stress of cooking, serving as receptionist and running the bar at his workplace. He learned his lesson during the past two months he spent among prisoners and will work to improve time management, she said.

“He does not want to go back to Tafaigata...he really learned from being placed in custody,” Leavai said.

“He is carrying a Bible and is keen on attending church at the Catholic Si’usega Church.”

She told the court Viavia’s talent is cooking and he has been offered his job back by his former employer. His employer describes him as “quiet,” “hardworking” and “committed.”

“He is happy to have his job back and he wants to prove to everyone that he can be a good citizen from now on,” Leavai said, noting her client will stay away from marijuana and alcohol and commit himself to work and attending Church.

Viavia, seated in the stand, bowed his head of dreadlocks and clasped his hands between his legs for most of the sentencing.

Justice Leiataualesa said the defendant had positive character references but pointed out that Viavia has prior convictions on theft and burglary. He was sentenced to serve 10 months in probation and one of the conditions is that he not re-offend.

“Marijuana possession is a serious offense in Samoa,” said Justice Leiataualesa.

“I sincerely hope your experience will be enough for you to stop smoking marijuana. Defense says it’s for pleasure and to relax. Find legal means to relax.”