Saturday, June 02, 2007

Only in American Samoa

I've discussed the prison system several times already. Well, here's another not-so-great story about our inmates:

Inmate walks out of court and out of sight under TCF watch
By La PoasaSamoa News Staff

Immediately after District Court Judge John L. Ward II continued his case yesterday afternoon to another date, inmate Atoa "Anytime" Sipili walked away from where he sat with his attorney, told the TCF officer in the courtroom that he was going out for a smoke and disappeared.

Minutes later, the TCF officer that was in the courtroom and another officer who was outside of the courthouse were busy looking for Sipili, an inmate in his late 60s who was arrested for a second time driving under the influence offense.

The TCF officers looked around the courthouse, drove to the marketplace to look for Sipili and checked out the nearby buildings, but Sipili was nowhere to be found.

Ward had remanded Sipili back to the custody of the TCF so that the defendant be returned to jail pending the outcome of his case.

After leaving the courtroom for a so-called smoking break, Sipili supposedly met up with the TCF guard that was outside. According to one witness, once outside, Sipili took off his orange jumpsuit uniform, which easily identified him as an inmate, and told the officer that the judge had released him and that he was free to go.

And then he was gone.

As of yesterday evening, police were still looking for Sipili, who apparently had earned the trust of the two TCF officers. He didn't get a supervised escort by an officer when he left the courtroom, as is the procedure, nor was he questioned by the officer if the judge had really OK'd his release.

Sipili, who is on probation for a 2006 assault conviction, is scheduled to have a full hearing regarding his DUI case next Tuesday.