19 May 2010

Prosecution trips up in American Samoa driver's license case

2:37 pm on 19 May 2010

The American Samoa High Court has ruled that the Independent Prosecutor statute is unconstitutional.

It has therefore dismissed the criminal cases against the two Department of Public Safety officials, Marie Ripley and Mike Fuiava.

The court said the Independent Prosecutor statute disrupts the executive branch's constitutionally assigned functions and violates the judicial branch's mandate to maintain independence.

The ruling is in response to challenges made by lawyers acting on behalf of Mrs Ripley and Mr Fuiava, who were facing criminal charges brought by the independent prosecutor, Fa'amomoi Masaniai Jr.

Mrs Ripley, who was serving as manager of the Office of Motor Vehicles, was charged with two counts of forgery and one count of public servant acceding to corruption while Mr Fuiava, who was the deputy police commissioner, had been charged with tampering with physical evidence and hindering prosecution.

The charges stemmed from the issuance of an American Samoa driver's license to a woman using another person's social security number.