High Court convicts Barlow on 16 of 19 counts; from sodomy to careless driving
The Trial Division of the High Court has convicted James Barlow of 16 of the 19 criminal counts against him in connection with sexually related activity and traffic citations, following a bench trial, which was presided over by Chief Justice Michael Kruse, Chief Associate Judge Logoai Pereira and Associate Judge Fa’amausili Pomele.
This matter came before the court system on Mar. 16, 2012, where Barlow was charged with 19 criminal counts in connection with sexual activities on Oct. 24-25, 2011. The majority of these charges allege sex-related offenses against three juvenile boys with initials L.B, T.L and T.T.
Barlow was an instructor at the American Samoa Community College when the incident occurred and was immediately terminated when criminal charges were filed.
The defendant was charged with two counts of sodomy, deviate sexual assault with an incapacitated person, two counts of deviate sexual assault with a child, two counts of sexual abuse first degree, three charges of furnishing pornographic materials to a minor, three counts of aiding a child to possess or consume alcohol, two counts of endangering the welfare of a child, a DUI charge, careless driving and non possession of a driver’s license (which was settled prior to trial.)
According to the 14-page decision and order, after a series of pretrial motions and delays, including a request for new counsel, this matter finally came to trial on June 24-26, 2014.
According to the decision and order, on the evidence of the eyewitness accounts of the complainant juveniles “we are firmly convinced and so find that during the evening hours between October 24-25, 2011 the defendant knowingly furnished large bottles of beer to the three juvenile complainants: 14 year old L.B, 14 year old T.T and 17 year old T.L at his residence in Ottoville.
“We are also satisfied on the evidence, beyond reasonable doubt, that the defendant had also furnished a pornographic video, showing homosexual activity, which was viewed by L.B and T.T and that the defendant separately committed oral sex on each of the juveniles,” the judges state.
The court notes that additionally they find that defendant had anal sex with L.B. “Moreover, the facts wholly support the inference that the defendant’s contact with each of the juveniles complainants’ genitals as aforesaid was for the purpose of arousing or gratifying (his) sexual desire.”
The court said that they cannot find that defendant committed deviate sexual assault with an incapacitated person (T.T) as charged, or with furnishing pornography as charged regarding T.T, since T.T. testified it was only MTV, not pornography which was on when he walked into the house, and he was the last to arrive.
Finally the evidence presented to the court, “left us also firmly convinced that the defendant was not only under the influence of alcohol but was thereby under no condition to safely operate a vehicle at the relevant time,” the decision states.
Of interest, the court says the defense urges the court to consider the inconsistencies in the complainants recollection of events of the evening, the bias associated with their disposition agreements, prior denials of any sexual activity and their omissions to mention anything about sexual activity to the police after they were arrested.
The court responds, “Of course there will be inconsistencies, the events occurred many years ago, the juveniles were under the influence of beer, their written statements offered into evidence were [in] English not their native Samoan and the juveniles were in statement and in live testimony recounting difficult sexual matters perceived as shameful and taboo.”
According to the decision, the juveniles however were “quite consistent in their claims that defendant provided them with beer and engaged in sexual activity with each of them.”
Regarding the claims of bias by defense, the court says they find the juveniles had no bias. The court further says that the juveniles did not admit to sexual activity with defendant until March 2012 when they were directly asked by a police investigator.
Furthermore the court notes that while they have no reason to doubt that one of the juveniles denied the sexual activity. “This is not a matter a child sex crime victim would discuss openly with any person who asked.”
“Furthermore, reticence in coming forward with sexual abuse is not uncommon among child victims, not immediately disclosing the sexual activity is not per se indicative of fabrication, rather an unwillingness among the immature to openly admit to activities considered disgraceful and shameful to both their persons and to their families.
The court says it became clear on defense cross examination that the subsequent sex related investigations by the police had less to do with the juveniles coming froward to explain, but more to do with prosecutor’s suspicion about the defendant and his association with the juveniles.
“It was only when the police confronted each of the juveniles about potential sexual activity that the complainants finally spoke up, otherwise this case may well have been just another unreported matter concerning minor victims of sexual abuse.”
The High Court found Barlow guilty of two counts of sodomy, two counts of deviate sexual assault, two counts of sexual abuse first degree, three counts of endangering the welfare of a child, DUI and careless driving.
Barlow was acquitted of deviate sexual assault with an incapacitated person and furnishing pornography materials to a minor.
The court has ordered the probation office to prepare a pre sentence and investigation report to be made available on Sept. 12, 2014 and the clerk will then set this matter for sentencing.