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Taxi driver arrested for alleged rape of his 16-year-old niece

District Court Judge Fiti Sunia

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — A 46-year-old man, who is a taxi driver, is being held on $50,000 bail on allegations that he raped his 16-year-old niece.

Samoa News is withholding the name of the man to protect the identity of the victim in this matter. The victim’s father is the defendant’s first cousin. The victim’s family and the defendant’s family live in the same area in Tafuna.

The defendant made his initial appearance before District Court Judge Fiti Sunia last week. He is represented by Assistant Public Defender Ryan Anderson, while prosecuting the case is Assistant Attorney General Jason Mitchell.

The defendant, a father of 5, has been charged with 2 counts of rape, sodomy, 2 counts of first degree sexual abuse - all felonies, along with one count of endangering the welfare of a child, a class A misdemeanor.

If he is able to post bond, the defendant will be released on the following conditions: he has to make all of his court appearances, not leave or attempt to leave the territory, surrender all his travel documents to the government, and make no direct or indirect contact with the victim. If he encounters her in public, he must walk away peacefully.

An affidavit in support of the arrest warrant states that the victim and her father walked into the Tafuna substation on Sept. 28, to file a complaint against the defendant, who resides in the same neighborhood as the alleged victim and her family.

As a taxi driver, the defendant usually picks up the victim and her two little brothers from their home and drops them off at school every morning. The 16-year-old high school victim said she knew the defendant as a family member, and she always called him ‘uncle’.

In November last year, the defendant asked the girl if he could pick her up after school so he can talk to her about something important. The victim agreed and the defendant picked her up after school.

The government alleges that the defendant picked the girl up from school and drove her to Kokoland where they spent almost 3 hours talking inside his vehicle.

During the long conversation, the victim told police that the defendant asked her if they could start a secret friendship under certain conditions — he would provide money for her to use and he'd buy anything she needed, but she would have to agree to do whatever he asked.

The victim told police that it was after Christmas last year, while her father was in Apia (Samoa), that the defendant picked her up after their youth practice and drove her to the same place in Kokoland. The defendant then gave her money.

According to the government’s case, it was after this short conversation that the defendant sexually assaulted the victim inside his vehicle.

The second alleged incident occurred in April of this year after Flag Day when the defendant picked the victim up from a store and drove her back to the same area in Kokoland.

The victim further told police that in the beginning of this year, the defendant bought her a new phone to make it easier for them to communicate.

Court filings provide specific months of last year, when the victim alleges the defendant touched her in a sexual manner and then sexually assaulted her. The victim and defendant spent a lot of time talking on the phone and through Facebook messenger.

The latest incident that led to this case being reported to police occurred two weeks ago when the victim’s father saw the defendant’s vehicle parked in an area close to their home. The victim’s father was inside a vehicle with a friend, heading to do construction work on the other side of Tafuna.

The victim’s father asked the driver of the vehicle to pull over because he wanted to speak to the driver of the taxi. As the victim’s father made his way to the area where the defendant’s taxi was parked, the passenger door opened and he saw his daughter exiting the vehicle.

Once the girl stepped out, the defendant started his car and fled the scene. It was at that time the victim explained everything to her father, and both the victim and her father went to the police station to file the complaint.

During an interview with police, the defendant allegedly signed a waiver and wanted to tell his side of the story, according to the affidavit.

At first, the defendant denied having a relationship with the victim, but then he made a verbal admission.

The defendant allegedly told police that he had just started a relationship with the victim this year. He said he bought her a phone because she told him she needed one so they could talk. He allegedly admitted that he was aware the victim was a minor because he had asked her.

The defendant claims that he bought her clothing, shoes and food because the victim’s family could not afford to buy her those things. Police said the defendant admitted to kissing the victim, but denied having sexual intercourse with her.

According to police, the defendant refused to provide a written statement, saying his verbal statement was enough. Police claim that during the interview, the defendant “seemed nervous and would change his answers after being asked the same question.”