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Crime & Courts

Official lost part of ear in American Samoa attack

A man arrested in American Samoa on a charge he cut off part of a U.S. official's ear with a machete will be taken to Hawaii for a federal court appearance.

The FBI said Wednesday that Simeti Lualemana, 67, was charged with assaulting a U.S. government employee performing official duties. The charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.

Mark Cunningham, station chief for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, was attacked Monday while taking pictures of a house being built by Lualemana on NOAA-controlled land, officials said. Cunningham had previously told Lualemana the house couldn't be located on the land.

Cunningham lost part of his left ear when he suffered a cut up to nearly 6 inches long to his neck, the FBI said.

Lualemana is accused of grabbing Cunningham's shirt and attempting to strike him a second time with the machete, but Cunningham pushed him away and fled to a nearby NOAA facility while bleeding profusely, the bureau said.

Cunningham was treated at LBJ Tropical Medical Center, the only hospital in the U.S. territory, and is recovering from his injuries.

Lualemana will be transported to Honolulu for an appearance Friday in U.S. District Court, the FBI said.

American Samoa is located in the South Pacific, about 2,300 miles south of Hawaii.

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