Man who allegedly tried to molest a 12-year-old now in custody
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — A man who is on probation for a stealing conviction is now back in custody on the allegation that he attempted to molest a 12-year-old while she was walking home to Aua.
The defendant, Lino Penitito made his initial appearance in District Court last month.
Penitito is charged with two counts of attempted child molesting, a class B felony, punishable by a term of imprisonment from 5-15 years; one count of attempted rape, one count of felonious restraint and one count of 1st degree sexual abuse, all class D felony, punishable by a term of imprisonment of up to five years, a fine of up to $5,000, or both, along with one count of endangering the welfare of a child, a class A misdemeanor, punishable by a term of imprisonment of up to one year, a fine of up to $1,000 or both.
Bail is set at $50,000.
On Mar. 26, 2021 at about 5:15p.m, a woman contacted the Central Police Station in Fagatogo requesting police assistance regarding her 12-year-old daughter allegedly molested by an unknown Samoan male in Aua while her daughter was walking home.
The woman further stated to police that her daughter was crying and scared when she arrived home and immediately alerted her about what allegedly happened on the road.
Several police officers responded to the call and met up with a woman at the house where the call came from and immediately started their investigation by interviewing people involved in the matter including the victim and her mother.
Both the victim and her mother were transported to the FPS for further investigation. Police were also notified that the name of the suspect is Tino Penitito.
The victim was questioned in the presence of her mother and two investigators. According to the victim’s statement to police, she was walking home, and a Samoan man called her to come over to the house. He started asking questions, including where she lives, and the victim replied up at the mountain.
Penitino asked the victim how many people are in her family and the victim replied, “A lot”. He then asked the victim if she wants to hang out with him at his house because he’s bored and he wanted someone to talk to, and the victim replied, “No I can’t, I need to go home because my mommy is waiting for me.”
Penitito’s conversation with the victim was held in front of the front door to the defendant’s house. Penitito asked the victim to come inside the house but the victim said no. The victim told investigators that she refused to go inside the house but the Samoan man kept on asking her to come inside.
At one point, the defendant allegedly grabbed the victim’s hand and forced her to walk inside the house. The defendant pushed the victim inside the house and closed the door.
As the defendant was pulling the victim’s hand and trying to lead her inside the house, he allegedly touched the victim’s chest inappropriately. The victim tried to push the defendant away but the defendant was too strong and was able to force the victim inside the house.
He allegedly hugged the victim and started kissing her face and slapped (tapped) her buttocks. The victim further stated to investigators that the defendant tried to pull her inside the bathroom and take off her clothes but she managed to push his hand away and told him that she needed to go home.
Trying to free herself from the defendant, the victim managed to push the defendant away from her and quickly ran away from his house and made her way home. She then reported what happened to her mother and her mother then reported the incident to authorities.
The problem at that point, according to the government’s case, the victim did not know the identity of the male who attempted to rape her.
After getting the information from the victim, several police officers went to the house in Aua where the victim reported the incident happened. While speaking with the resident of the house, officers were able to identify the unknown male as Penitito who lives in Pago Pago.
Officers requested that the people who live at the house where the alleged incident took place to inform them if Penitito returns to their house.
On the following day, Mar. 27, officers at the Central Station received a phone call from a male individual who wanted to remain anonymous stating that Penitito was at his house and the caller requested police assistance right away before Penitito disappeared.
Several police responded to the call and observed Penitito sitting on a chair in front of the house. Officers approached Penitito and asked him if he could come with them to the CPS to discuss something important.
Penitito looked nervous but eventually agreed to come with police to the CPS for an interview.
Before he was interviewed, Penitito was Mirandized and he said he understood and agreed to make a verbal statement. According to Penitito, he stated that while he was standing in his friend’s house, he saw the victim passing three times in front of the house. That’s when he called her to come over to have a chat with him, but the victim refused.
Penitito told investigators that he kept calling out to the victim to come over and for her to come inside the house with him to talk — but the victim continued to refuse. However, the victim finally agreed and walked inside the house with him.
The defendant stated that he noticed the victim was scared so he wrapped his arms around her and slapped her buttocks and told her there’s nothing to be scared of because he would not hurt her. He also asked the victim if she was okay and she replied saying yes.
Penitito strongly denied the allegation that he kissed the victim on the facial area or that he attempted to pull off her clothes with the intent of raping her. He also denied the allegation that he tried to pull her into the bathroom.
He told investigators that he understand that she was only a young girl but the reason why he called out to her to come to his house was to hang out with her because she was like his sister’s young children and he wanted to spend time with young children like her.
Penitio was ordered to serve 20 months at the Territorial Correctional Facility (TCF) as a condition of a 5 year probation after he was convicted of stealing from his former employer. However, execution of the jail term was suspended and he was given 180 days (or 6 months) behind bars.
Penitito’s conviction stemmed from an incident where he and another former employee of Tri Marine International stole items and money from the company’s main office while working as security guards in 2016.