25 Mar 2014

Federal court upholds conviction of American Samoa public servant

12:47 pm on 25 March 2014

The US Court of Appeals in Washington DC has affirmed a lower court decision on the conviction and sentencing of a former American Samoa government official.

The department of education official, Paul Solofa, is serving a prison term in Hawaii following his conviction in early 2012 of witness tampering and obstruction of justice.

Early last year Solofa appealed against his conviction as well as the jail term of 35 months.

The federal charges against Solofa stemmed from the time he was head of the department's Finance Office several years ago.

The defenCe had argued in appeal that the defendant didn't get effective assistance from his trial attorney who failed to raise an entrapment defenCe and that the court erred by handing down a much longer jail term than is required by federal sentencing guidelines.

The government disagreed, saying the court did not make any error in sentencing and that the trial defenCe attorney's performance was neither deficient nor prejudicial because Solofa did not have a viable entrapment defense.

Prosecutors had accused Solofa of masterminding a kickback scheme for school bus spare parts, but they have remained silent on why Solofa was never charged with bribery, or whether he will ever be charged.