Court tells man convicted of sexual assault, “Sir, you’re not worth living”
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — A 58-year-old man convicted of having a sexual relationship with his own 14-year-old niece has been sentenced to serve 7 straight years behind bars. The sentence was handed down by Associate Justice Fiti Sunia, assisted by Chief Associate Judge Mamea Sala Jr and Associate Judge Tunupopo Alalafaga Tunupopo last week.
The defendant, who has been in custody since his arrested almost two years ago, unable to post a $50,000 surety bond appeared in High Court last week for sentencing. He was represented by Assistant Public Defender, Ryan Anderson, while prosecuting the case was Assistant Attorney General, Kristine Soule’.
The defendant was initially charged with one count of rape; two counts of sodomy; and two counts of first-degree sexual abuse, all felonies. However in a plea agreement with the government, accepted by the court in October of last year, the defendant pled guilty to the amended charge of sexual assault, a class C felony, punishable by a term of imprisonment of 7 years, a fine of up to $5,000, or both.
By his guilty plea, the defendant admits that around February of 2020 he sexually assault the victim by engaging in a sexual relationship with the victim.
The defense attorney asked the court to consider a probated sentence for his client, given the fact that he’s truly remorseful for his actions and has taken full responsibility for what he did. According to Anderson, his client served over 23 months at the Territorial Correctional Facility (TCF) while awaiting the outcome of his case.
The prosecutor strongly opposed the defense’s submission for a probated sentence. According to Soule’, the defendant sexually assaulted the victim over a period of time and he’s a danger to young girls. She asked the court for the maximum sentence of 7 years, however, if the court decided to place the defendant on probation, Soule’ asked for the maximum period of detention of 28 months behind bars.
The prosecutor said the defendant deserves to be punished because of his actions.
The defendant is a citizen Samoa who holds the immigration status of P2 — a person married to a permanent resident. The defendant’s immigration ID expired last year while he was in custody awaiting the outcome of his case.
According to the court, the defendant’s conviction stems from an incident where he engaged in sexual intercourse with a minor. The court stated that there isn’t much to say about this case because this type of incident is not acceptable in this community.
The defendant is an older man who sexually assaulted a minor who was looked up to as a father and guardian. According to the court, this is a very serious offense and if the Legislature had established the punishment for this offense with life imprisonment, “we would impose it.”
This young victim will carry what happened to her for the rest of her life, the court noted. According to the Pre Sentence Report (PSR), the victim was emotional when she was questioned by Probation and it’s a proven fact that the victim was affected by the defendant’s actions.
The court continued, old men, like this defendant, should look after minor girls like the victim in this case. He is like a father figure to this young victim, however, he took advantage of her and engaged in a sexual relationship with the victim.
The court sentenced the defendant to 7 years at TCF — a straight sentence. Upon release from custody, the defendant must depart the territory and remain outside of its border. He was also ordered to pay a fine of $2,000.
“Sir, you’re not worth living,” the court said.
On Friday, Jan. 29, 2020, a woman and two female teens went to the Tafuna Police SubStation to report that one of them had been raped by her uncle, who lives next door.
The victim, 14, and her sister, 19, live with their aunt and uncle (not the defendant).
According to the victim, the first offense happened the first week of April, while she was home alone. She claimed that her uncle after sending her to the store to buy something, she returned and he was in her house — naked — and he instructed her to inappropriately touch him. The victim told police she was scared but couldn’t do anything because her uncle grabbed her hand and put it on his private area.
The defendant also touched her sexually and told her he wanted to make love to her.
The second incident happened on Jan. 8, 2020, again in her home, The victim said she was in the kitchen and her uncle was also there, and out of no where, he hugged her from behind and inappropriately touched her.
The victim said she pushed her uncle’s hands away but he grabbed her hand and pulled it towards him. She pushed him away and walked to the living room, but the defendant allegedly followed her and grabbed her hand again, and this time, pulled her into the bedroom. The victim said she tried to pull her hand back but the defendant was too strong.
Once alone, the victim told police that her uncle started kissing her while he groped her all over with his hands. The defendant then allegedly undressed the victim, then himself, before allegedly raping her.
The victim said she tried to move and break free, but her uncle was too strong.
She said the rape only came to a halt after the bed started creaking. That’s when her uncle told her not to tell anyone what happened, and if she did. he would hurt her and her sister. The defendant then left and went back to his house.
When confronted by police, the defendant admitted to taking the victim into her bedroom but says he never raped her.
According to him, it was the victim who asked him to come over and hang out with her. While he was in the house, the victim asked him to scratch her back. And while he was doing that, the victim grabbed his hand and put it on her chest. That’s when he grabbed the victim’s hand and pulled her into her room where he inappropriately touched her.
At the time, the defendant denied ever having sexual intercourse with the victim in her room.
In 2009, the defendant was convicted of two counts of third degree assault, pursuant to a plea agreement with the government. In that case, the defendant admitted to inappropriately touching a 15-year-old girl on two different occasions. The defendant and the victim in that case were not related. District Court placed his on probation for two years for this conviction.