Man convicted of sexually assaulting his young niece will serve 7 years
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — A 45-year-old man convicted of sexually assaulting his 16-year-old niece over a period of 5 months will serve 7 years at the Territorial Correctional Facility (TCF).
The defendant, who has been in custody unable to post a $50,000 surety bond, appeared in High Court last week for sentencing.
(In the interest of protecting the minor victim, Samoa News is withholding the name of all parties involved.)
The victim was living with the defendant during the period of the crime, according to the government.
The defendant was originally charged in two separate cases. In the first case, the defendant was charged with 15 charges, including 4 counts of rape; one count of sodomy; 4 counts of first degree sexual abuse; 4 counts of incest; all felonies, along with 3 counts of endangering the welfare of a child, a class A misdemeanor.
In the second case, the defendant was charged with unlawful possession of methamphetamine (meth), and unlawful possession of marijuana, both unclassified felonies which carry an imprisonment sentence between 5 to 10 years, a fine between $5,000 and $20,000, or both.
But under a plea agreement with the government, accepted by the court, he pled guilty to the amended count of sexual assault, a class C felony, punishable by imprisonment of up to 7 years, a fine of up to $5,000 or both; and first degree sexual abuse, a class D felony, punishable by up to 5 years in jail, a fine of up to $5,000 or both.
The defendant admits that between August and December 2019, he sexually assaulted his 16-year-old niece at their home and other places including his work place in Tafuna and also in his vehicle. He claims they had a consensual sexual relationship that lasted about ten months.
When given the chance to speak, the defendant apologized and said he’s truly remorseful for what happened; adding that he wants to return home so he can find a job to care for his wife and children.
He also apologized to his wife and children and especially to the victim, his niece for violating the trust that was given to him as her uncle and the leader of the family. The defendant admitted to the court that he had a drug problem and that caused a lot of trouble for him and his family.
His drug problem led him to the darkness, which almost cost him his life during an incident when he was brutally beaten up by two men during a drug deal in October of 2019 when he failed to come up with the right amount of money that was needed for the transaction.
The defendant’s mother was present in court during his sentencing.
The defense attorney requested probation, saying that despite the seriousness of the crime, his client deserves a second chance to return home. He went on to say that the defendant’s wife and family — including the victim want him to return home and reunite with the family.
The prosecutor asked for a maximum sentence, saying the defendant committed a serious offense that will affect the future of the young victim. The government’s attorney said the sentence would send a strong message to the community that the court will not tolerate this type of behavior.
The government’s attorney reminded the court that pursuant to the plea agreement between the two parties, the government asked for dismissal of the most serious offense of unlawful possession of meth and unlawful possession of marijuana.
Furthermore, the government believes that a long period of detention is a suitable sentence in this matter.
A recap of the facts of the case was made before sentencing was handed down.
According to the court, the defendant engaged in a sexual relationship with his 16-year-old niece, and his actions were severe and unspeakable. With regards to the defense’s claim that the wife and the family including the victim had agreed to allow the defendant to return home, the court said that they are not persuaded with that statement.
In fact, the court believes the defendant is a danger to the family and he needs to stay away from the victim. The court further stated that their decision will reflect what the court feels is best for the victim and the community.
Committing sexual acts with minor children is one of the more serious offenses in American Samoa, the court noted, saying it will do everything in its authority to make sure anyone who commits these crimes is held accountable for their actions.
After reviewing the Pre Sentence Report (PSR) including the defendant’s history, the court said it was unsure why the government didn’t initially charge him with Domestic Violence, which is a more serious offense, a class B felony that carries a longer jail term.
The defendant was sentenced to 7 years imprisonment and a $2,000 fine for sexual assault; and 5 years and a $2,000 fine for first degree sexual abuse. The sentences are to run concurrently, meaning he will serve 7 years behind bars.
The court ordered that the defendant’s sponsor is responsible for paying the $2,000 fine within 12 months.
The matter came to light after police were notified on December 28, 2019 about the defendant assaulting his wife after the wife confronted him regarding the sexual relationship with her niece that had been going on for over 5 months.
Several police officers responded to the call and met up with the defendant’s wife sitting in front of their house crying.
When questioned by police, the defendant’s wife stated that her husband assaulted her and her niece.
The defendant reportedly punched his wife in the face multiple times, and then threatened to shoot her if she called the cops. The niece told the defendant to stop assaulting her aunt but the defendant pushed his niece to the ground before punching her in the face and kicking her in the back. He also told his niece to stop spreading rumors that they are in a sexual relationship.
After the beating, the defendant jumped into his vehicle and left the house and reminded his wife and niece that he would shoot them and the whole family if they contacted the authorities.
When asked about the reason for the domestic dispute between her and her husband, the wife told police that her husband was disappointed when she confronted him regarding his sexual relationship with their niece.
She said the sexual relations between her husband and her niece started in the middle of 2019 and she confronted her husband several times about it, telling him to stop what he was doing but he kept insisting that nothing was going on.
According to the wife, she called a family meeting with her husband and her niece after the girl told her about the defendant’s behavior towards her. During the meeting, the defendant admitted to having a sexual relationship with his niece and he asked his wife to forgive him, telling her he would not do it again.
According to the victim, it was August of 2019 that her uncle came into her room while she was asleep and touched her sexually. He also kissed her and told her that he wanted to make love to her. She pushed him away and told him that she would talk to her mother about his actions.
The next morning, the victim told her aunt (defendant’s wife), what happened and her aunt confronted the defendant regarding the allegation, which he strongly denied and told his wife that his niece (victim) is trying to damage his reputation.
One week later, the defendant went into the victim’s room and raped her while she was sleeping on her bed, and that was when the sexual relationship between the defendant and victim started.
The following month, it was the same routine and the victim said she didn't want to do it, but her uncle (defendant) pushed himself on to her and eventually raped her.
When confronted by police, the defendant admitted to having a sexual relationship with his niece, who was then 16, saying it was consensual.