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Seuva’ai arraigned in federal court for knowingly engaging in sexual contact

fili@samoanews.com

The Federal Bureau of Investigation filed yesterday morning the official complaint at the federal court in Honolulu against an American Samoa resident, charged with sexual assault on board an aircraft and he appeared in court in the afternoon for arraignment.

The 22-year old Luavalu Seuva’ai was arrested last Thursday afternoon upon arrival at the Honolulu International Airport on a Hawaiian Airlines flight from Manila, Philippines.

The complaint accused the defendant of knowingly engaging in sexual contact with a female passenger, identified only by initials W.M.  It alleges the defendant intentionally touched the female passenger’s “breast with an intent to abuse, humiliate, harass, degrade, arouse or gratify the sexual desire of the defendant” without the victim’s permission.

The arrest affidavit states the defendant was seated next to the female passenger on the flight when the alleged incident occurred. She told investigators they initially engaged in a “friendly conversation” about their personal backgrounds and travel plans.

She learned that Seuva’ai was returning from a project in the Philippines which was the female passenger’s country of birth. Later in the flight after meals were served, she took some cold-medicine in an effort to fall asleep quickly because she was recovering from a head cold and was exhausted from her travels.

She recalled to investigators the defendant frequently moved around in his seat and occasionally toucher her leg or arm and the she thought this was an accident as Seuva’ai “was a large man” according to the affidavit.

As she fell asleep, she woke up to realize her hand had been placed on the “private region” of Seuva’ai’s pants and she pulled her hand from the defendant’s pants and decided not to say anything at that point, the affidavit alleges.

As she fell asleep again, she felt the defendant touching her again and this time, moving his hand underneath her blanket and shirt until he was touching her skin near her waist, she further alleges. This time, she realized the defendant was attempting to touch her sexually and she asked him to stop.

She then leaned towards the plane window and started sleeping again but was startled from sleep when she realized the defendant’s hand was fondling her breast underneath her bra. The affidavit further alleges and noted she pushed away the defendant’s hand and told him to leave.

At the same time, she pressed the bottom to summon the flight attendant, who was told about what had occurred. She also told investigators she did not at any point give Seuva’ai permission to touch her body.

When questioned by FBI agents, Seuva’ai recalled speaking to the female passenger about culture, food and religion and it appeared the female passenger “hated his religion and was not interested in what he had to say.”

Seuva’ai also stated that MW leaned against the window to sleep and while MW appeared to be sleeping, she placed her hand on his leg. Thus, he figured MW “was attempting to flirt with him.”

In response, Seuva’ai leaned toward her shoulder and rubbed her arm and side with his hand. He denied to the FBI that he touched MW in a sexual manner and he “was merely flirting with her.”

“After denying any sexual contact with MW, Seuva’ai decided to change his statement and confessed that he did indeed touch MW sexually without her consent,” the affidavit alleges and recalled what the defendant did, such as touching WM’s breast underneath her bra.

Seuva’ai also stated that MW had told him twice to stop and in her second request to stop, he did so while MW pressed the button summoning a flight attendant.

According to the affidavit, Seuva’ai “voluntarily wrote and signed a confession which stated that Seuva’ai touched MW’s side and breast without MW’s consent.”

Honolulu-based FBI spokesman Tom Simon said Seuva’ai appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Kevin Chang yesterday afternoon and entered a not guilty plea for a crime that is punishable by two years in prison.

Chang ordered the defendant’s release to the custody of an Oahu resident who agreed to be his “third party custodian” on a $25,000 signature bond, said Simon via e-mail from Honolulu, adding that a preliminary hearing to establish probable cause is scheduled Sept. 7th.

The Associated Press reports Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Song saying that Seuva’ai was released to his sister.

Electronic court records on the case were not yet accessible as of yesterday afternoon and therefore Samoa News was unable to identify a defense attorney for comments.



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