27 Oct 2008

American Samoa cabinet member returns to face trial

10:38 am on 27 October 2008

American Samoa's Director of Health, Utoofili Asofaafetai Maga, has been spared jail time.

A week ago, Chief Justice Michael Kruse issued an arrest warrant for the director for not honoring a subpoena to appear in court.

The cabinet member was in the US mainland attending his sister's funeral.

He returned last Thursday morning and turned himself into the High Court.

Defence attorney Fiti Sunia told the court his client was fulfilling his duties as a matai when he went off island.

The Chief Justice said in reply that as Director of Health, Utoofili has duties to the American Samoa Government which are just as important as his chiefly duties.

When he issued the arrest warrant, the chief justice said he was not prepared to allow bail.

However he has since changed his mind.

He set bail at $1,000 and scheduled a hearing for the health director this week.

The director was spared jail time by posting bail the same day.

The High Court requires the Health Director to appear and explain what the Health Department is providing for mental health patients in terms of treatment and care facilities.