Taxi driver denies allegations of sexually abusing underage girl
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The case against a married man accused of sexually abusing a 16-year-old girl, filed in District Court last month, which led to his arrest, has also led to the discovery of drugs in his possession and inside his vehicle. Faamanu Maeli, 42, made his initial appearance last month.
He is charged with one count of unlawful possession of methamphetamine (meth) and one count of unlawful possession of marijuana, both unclassified felonies, along with two counts of first degree sexual abuse, a class D felony; and two class A misdemeanors: third degree assault and endangering the welfare of a child.
Maeli is currently on probation for 5 years after being convicted for unlawful possession of meth in 2017.
Bond is set at $25,000 and a preliminary examination is set for next week.
Despite the severity of the allegations against his client, the defense attorney asked for a bail reduction to $5,000. The defense attorney argued that the case is based on allegations only. He told the court that despite his client being on probation for his previous conviction, he has been able to comply with all of his probation conditions since he was sentenced four years ago in 2017.
Maeli’s attorney informed the court that his client has been a taxi driver for over 7 years now, providing for his wife and children.
The prosecutor objected to both motions, saying the allegations are serious and it is the government's duty to protect the young victim. He said the bail amount is reasonable and the defendant must be ordered not to make any contact with the victim while his case is pending in court.
The court agreed and bail remains at $25,000.
If released on bond, Maeli is to abide by standard conditions, in addition to finding someplace else to stay, as the alleged crime took place in the same compound where Maeli, and the victim and her family reside.
The defense attorney informed the court that his client can reside with his uncle and his family in Futiga.
On the morning of Oct. 22nd, 2021, the aunt of the alleged victim called police to report that her 16-year-old niece had been sexually abused by a man, who is well known to their family as a taxi driver. The man was later identified as Faamanu Maeli, the defendant in this matter.
The minor victim was interviewed by police in the presence of her aunt. Her father was unaware of the situation because he was at work when the alleged incident occurred. The victim told police that it’s been two months now since the suspect sexually abused her on three different occasions.
She recalled the first incident while she was asleep one evening in her room when she was awoken by someone inappropriately touching her. Windows to her room were open because it was hot and she had opened them to get fresh air. She said at first, she thought it was a dream.
She said when she woke up, she saw Maeli standing outside her room and touching her inappropriately through the room’s open windows. The victim sat up and pushed Maeli’s hand away from her but Maeli whispered to her to be quiet and not make a sound, adding that he wanted to spend time with her.
The victim said she screamed and yelled out for her aunt. Maeli then turned around and ran to the direction where his house is located, started his vehicle, which was parked in front of his house — and left the premises. The victim said she witnessed Maeli’s action.
The victim claims that it was not the first time Maeli did this. According to her, one week after the first incident while sitting in front of her house, the victim said she felt someone touching her inappropriately from behind. She said she turned around and saw Maeli standing behind her. When she asked about what he did, Maeli laughed without saying a word.
According to the victim, Maeli was drunk that night.
On a separate occasion, the victim said she was sleeping when she felt something heavy on her. She said she woke up and found Maeli trying to lie on top on her. She said she pushed him and yelled out to her family, causing Maeli to run out and head back to his house.
The government claims that there were times when Maeli confronted the victim and gave her money, which the victim did not accept.
According to the victim’s aunt, it was her 20-year-old daughter who caught Maeli inside the victim’s room on the night of one the incidents.
When interviewed by police, the victim’s cousin said that sometime last month, at around 5a.m., she awoke and walked to the kitchen to prepare her baby’s food. When she returned, she was shocked to see Maeli standing behind her cousin (victim) while hugging her on her chest from behind. She further stated that Maeli was equally surprised to see her standing inside the kitchen watching what he was doing.
The witness told police that she didn’t say a word, she just stood in the middle of the kitchen and looked at Maeli, who then pretended that he was normally talking to the victim. A few moments later, Maeli stood up and walked away, started his vehicle and left.
The victim’s cousin said she had a bad feeling that Maeli had tried to do something bad to her cousin that morning, but also thought it was not possible because he’s like an uncle to them. However, when Maeli’s actions were repeated on the following morning, she decided to inform her mother.
Maeli was not at his house when officers were looking for him. His wife told officers that Maeli was driving his taxi and he sometimes sleeps over at the taxi stand. Officers tried to locate Maeli but he was nowhere to be found.
Last month, Maeli was apprehended at his uncle’s home in Futiga and was transported to the Tafuna Police Substation (TPS) for questioning. Before he was transported to the TPS, he was patted down for weapons. During the body search, officers discovered a glass pipe commonly used to smoke meth, containing white crystalline substance inside Maeli’s pocket.
Officers also searched Maeli’s vehicle and discovered one hand rolled marijuana joint inside the vehicle.
When questioned by investigators regarding the alleged sexual abuse incident, Maeli said it was the victim who asked him to come to her room early in the morning so they could talk. He further claims that it was the victim who forced him to touch her body in a sexual manner. According to Maeli, he felt bad about what happened between him and the victim, because the victim’s family treats him like a family member.
When questioned about the drugs found in his possession and inside his vehicle, Maeli said the drugs belonged to another passenger. He told investigators that the picked up a male passenger from Iliili and dropped him at the Laufou Shopping Center. After the passenger exited his vehicle, he observed something lying on the floor under the passenger’s seat.
He picked it up and opened it, and found it was a glass pipe containing white crystalline substance and one marijuana joint. He put the glass pipe in his pocket and left the marijuana on the floor under the passenger’s seat.
Maeli strongly denied any allegation that he’s a drug dealer. He told investigators that he is just a normal person