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Third defendant in Taputimu sex case is sentenced

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He apologized to the minor victim, whom he referred to as his ‘sister’

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The third co-defendant in the Taputimu sexual assault case has been ordered to serve 28 months at the Territorial Correctional Facility (TCF) in Tafuna, as a condition of a 7-year probation term.

Nick Mataia appeared in High Court yesterday morning for sentencing.

Prosecuting the case was Assistant Attorney General Christy Dunn, while Assistant Public Defender Rob McNeill represented Mataia, who has been in custody since his arrest last year, unable to post a $100,000 surety bond.

The government charged Mataia in two separate cases.

In the first case, he was charged with rape, sodomy, and first degree sexual abuse, all felonies; and one count of endangering the welfare of a child, a class A misdemeanor. In the second case, he was charged with one count of unlawful possession of meth with the intent to distribute, a felony.

But under a plea agreement with the government, accepted by the court last month, Mataia pled guilty to the amended count of sexual assault in the first case, a class C felony, carrying a prison term of up to 7 years, a fine of up to $5,000 or both; and the amended count of unlawful possession of meth in the second case, a class D felony, punishable by imprisonment of up to 5 years, a fine of up to $5,000 or both.

With his guilty plea, Mataia admits that on Oct. 8, 2018 he sexually assaulted a 14-year-old female in Taputimu. He further admits that he smoked meth with the victim before and after he sexually assaulted her.

When given the chance to speak, Mataia first apologized to the victim for what he did to her. Addressing the victim in court as a “sister”, Mataia said, “I’m truly remorseful for what I did to you. I didn’t mean to do such evil things to you; however, it was my carelessness and stupidity. Please, I humbly ask you to please forgive your sinful brother.”

Mataia also apologized to the victim’s family, the court, his family, and also his wife and children.

He said God let him stay in prison so He can show His love for him through the many spiritual programs provided by several churches for all the inmates, including himself, who are serving time at the TCF.

“Your honor, what I did was wrong and I take full responsibility. I ask for leniency and a second chance. However, whatever punishment the court is going to impose, I will accept it with a humble heart, because I deserve to be punished,” Mataia said.

McNeill told the court that his client is truly remorseful and he’s learned a lot of essential lessons while detained. He added that Mataia is the only co-defendant out of the three who has stated that whatever punishment the court imposes, he will accept it with the understanding that he’s guilty.

The court was informed about a letter from the TCF Warden, supporting Mataia’s good behavior at the facility.

Associate Justice Fiti Sunia spoke up and told McNeill that the letter was not from the Warden but instead, it was from a senior police officer. Dunn clarified that the letter was from a commander at the DPS Tafuna Substation.

McNeill did raise the fact that his client was a victim in a separate assault case, where he was allegedly beaten by three inmates. According to McNeill, Mataia suffered severe head injuries from that alleged incident and was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) for nearly a week.

He said his client committed a serious crime — not only did he sexually assault a 14-year-old — but also gave her drugs. He then asked to sentence Mataia to probation under the condition that he undergo drug counseling.

If a period of detention is ordered, McNeill asked the court to consider that Mataia has been in custody for over 10 months.

Prosecutor Dunn agreed, but added that Mataia shall register as a sex offender, and undergo HIV testing, as required by law.

In delivering his decision, Sunia noted that Mataia is a foreign national whose immigration status expires next month. Sunia said the court will not repeat what has been said during the sentencing of the other two co-defendants in this case. He said there are facts and more evidence to support what these three men did to the two minor victims.

Sunia told Mataia that none of the submissions can change the seriousness of the crime, and the only factor that entitles him to a probated sentence, is the clear error of the government and everyone. Everyone failed to do their part.

Mataia was sentenced to 7 years detention for sexual assault. Execution of the sentence is suspended and he is placed on probation for 5 years subject to several conditions. He is to serve 28 months at the TCF, credited the 10 1/2 months he has already served in pretrial confinement. He also is to register as a sex offender, undergo HIV testing, and pay a $1,000 fine.

For unlawful possession of meth, Mataia was sentenced to 5 years detention. Execution of the sentence is suspended and he is placed on probation for 5 years subject to several conditions. He is to serve 20 months at the TCF, credited the 10 1/2 months he’s already served.

He’s ordered to remain alcohol and drug free, and pay a $1,000 fine.

Detention periods and fines will run concurrently, meaning Mataia will serve 28 months at the TCF and pay a $1,000 fine.