Attorney General Talauega Eleasalo Ale has taken issue with a story that KHJ News broadcast last week wherein customs and police officers said that the aggressive approach in the prosecution of drug cases that once existed in the AG’s Office is no more.
The AG said it’s unfortunate that Talanei /KHJ News did not contact him or his office before they ran their report.
He said, “As a news organization, they have an obligation to provide fair and balanced reporting. Needless to say, this article was neither fair nor balanced.”
Talauega rejects as “baseless and irresponsible” our report suggesting that the AG’s Office is too lenient in prosecuting crimes involving intercepted drugs at the airport, post office, or dock.
The AG said, “Nothing is further from the truth. This year 2016, the Office of the Attorney General has not received a single report from any law enforcement agency in American Samoa regarding intercepted drugs at the airport, post office, or dock. Not a single report.”
Talauega asserts, “The last report of such a crime involving intercepted drugs was provided in September 2015 . The individual involved was promptly arrested, charged and prosecuted. The case is set for trial July 11, 2016. Prior to that case, there were two others which have all been successfully prosecuted.”
He goes on to say that the Office of the Attorney General prosecutes crimes based on credible investigation reports provided by law enforcement.
“This is a necessary first step because the Attorney General’s Office cannot create out of thin air the necessary facts and evidence to prosecute.”
Says the AG, ” Our legal system requires more than just rumors and innuendo to successfully prosecute and put somebody behind bars. So the AG’s Office relies heavily on the cooperation of law enforcement. It is the duty and obligation of law enforcement to investigate crimes, gather necessary evidence and then submit those reports to the Attorney General’s Office for review and prosecution.”
According to Talauega, “the record, which is publicly available, easily proves that every time a crime report involving intercepted drugs was submitted to the AG’s Office, we prosecuted the crime. We even pursued and prosecuted claims that were eventually thrown out by the Court for lack of evidence.”
Regarding the two recent incidents of intercepted drugs at the port and airport, the AG says, “I fully expect and trust that police investigators and customs personnel are gathering the necessary evidence and preparing an investigation report, which will be submitted to this Office for review and prosecution. To date, however, we have not received any such reports.”
KHJ News Director Monica Miller points out that efforts were made to contact Deputy AG Mitzie Jessop Taase who heads criminal prosecutions but she was not available.
The officers we sourced in our report are senior government employees whom we have relied on for information in the past.
They said in some incidents the persons who claimed packages at the airport or the Post Office in which drugs were found were not even taken into custody on instructions from the Attorney General’s Office.
We stand by or story.