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Afamasaga sentenced to serve 6 mos. in jail, 5 year-probation out of country

[SN file photo]
Pled guilty to 2 counts of sexual abuse

A citizen of Samoa, who was considered an overstayer and accused of sexually assaulting a 15-year old girl over a span of nearly five months, has been sentenced by the High Court to serve six months in prison as part of several conditions of probation.

Ashley Afamasaga, 24, was initially charged with 8 felony counts, but under a plea agreement with the government, he pled guilty last month to 2 counts of sexual abuse in the first degree and the remaining charges were dismissed.

The defendant, who admitted during his plea hearing that he had sexual intercourse with the 15-year-old girl several times, appeared last Friday morning before Acting Associate Justice Elvis P. Patea for sentencing.

Samoa News observed the the defendant — dressed in a white shirt and tie, wearing an ‘ie faitaga — is small in size, and someone who could be considered a teenager.

Before sentence was handed down, the defendant apologized to the court and pleaded for forgiveness saying that he is remorseful of his actions.

He said that every morning, since he was taken into custody, he woke up looking at the bars of his jail cell, and this is something that he is not used to. He said he wanted to return home to help his family.

He asked the court for forgiveness and that he was very remorseful. He completed his statement by wishing the court a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Afamasaga’s attorney Public Defender Douglas Fiaui told the court that his client came to American Samoa in January this year to be “reunited with his biological mother” and make a life for himself.

Instead, the defendant “made a serious mistake” of becoming involved with a 15-year girl, said Fiaui, who noted that his client is truly remorseful and is very young, who can do better things to help his family, but can’t do that due to his immigration status.

Fiaui argued for a probative sentence, saying that his client is a “suitable candidate” for probation, and part of such probation is that the defendant be required to depart the territory.

Assistant Attorney General Robert Morris noted that the defendant is of a “young age” and has no criminal record. He agreed with a probative sentence to include that he has no contact with the victim and to depart the territory after serving any sentence handed down by the court.

Patea, who was assisted on the bench by Associate Judge Satele, noted that a statement by the victim’s parents is included in the pre sentence report. For each count of first degree sexual abuse, the defendant was sentenced to 5 year imprisonment, to “run concurrent.”

However, that is suspended and the defendant is placed on five years probation under several conditions, Among them, he is to serve 20 months in jail, but 14 months is stayed, as long as the defendant complies with all conditions of probation.

For the six months in jail — which includes pre trial confinement — the defendant is not released unless ordered by the court or for an emergency. After serving six months, the defendant is to depart the territory and remain outside of American Samoa during the probation period of five years.

As required by local law, the defendant is also subject to HIV testing and to register as a sex offender with the Attorney General’s Office before he departs the territory. Patea also made clear to the defendant that he is to have “no contact” — direct or indirect — with the victim.

Patea said that the defendant, upon serving six months in jail, is released only to the Probation Office for his departure from the territory.

He also said the order regarding the defendant’s sentence and probation is to be served upon the Immigration Office, so the defendant’s name is put on the “Look out list” — for those who are on probation and not allowed in the territory during the probation period.

At last month’s plea hearing, Afamasaga admitted that between Mar. 24 and Aug. 14 this year, he sexually assaulted a young girl who was under 16 years of age by engaging in sexual activities with her. The defendant admitted to the Court that he had sexual intercourse with the 15-year-old girl several times.

According to the government's case, the 15-year-old victim told police she and the defendant had sexual intercourse numerous times between Mar. 14 and Aug. 24 this year. When questioned by police, Afamasaga confessed to the sex acts but added, he thought the victim was over 18 years old.