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Local man pleads guilty to groping woman on plane

fili@samoanews.com

The American Samoan man accused of groping a female passenger onboard a Hawaiian Airlines flight from Manila, Philippines to Honolulu entered a guilty plea at the federal court in Honolulu and will be sentenced later this year.

Twenty-two year-old Luavalu Seuva’ai was arrested and charged more than a week ago with sexual assault on board a civilian aircraft, a misdemeanor. He is accused of intentionally touching the female passenger’s breast underneath her clothing, according to prosecutors.

Seuva’ai appeared Wednesday afternoon before U.S. District Court Judge Kevin C. Chang for an arraignment hearing where he also entered a guilty plea to the misdemeanor charge.

The defendant is out on a $25,000 signature bond and released to the custody of his sister in Honolulu awaiting sentencing set for Dec. 5. Conditions for release, include that his travel is restricted to the island of Oahu, Hawai’i, maintain residence with the third party, and not violate any state or federal law.

The Associated Press reports Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Song saying that Seuva’ai faces up to six months in jail, a fine of up to $10,000 and one year probation.

Seuva’ai’s attorney Sean R. Coutain with the Federal Public Defender’s Office in Honolulu has yet to respond to Samoa News' e-mail inquiries sent Wednesday seeking comments on the case.

According to the federal complaint, Seuva’ai had initially denied to FBI agents any sexual contact with the female passenger, who had a friendly conservation with the defendant after the flight was airborne.

However, the complaint said the defendant later decided to change his statement to the FBI and confessed that he touched the passenger in a sexual manner without her consent.



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