TAPENI PIO CHARGED WITH RAPE OF 15-YEAR OLD GIRL
A man in his early 20s, who is facing four sexually related charges for the alleged rape of a 15-year old girl, was yesterday arraigned in High Court where his attorney, assistant public defender Michael White entered a not guilty plea on behalf of his client.
Tapeni Pio is charged with one count each of rape and sodomy; and two counts of sexual assault. Rape and sodomy are both class B felonies, each punishable by imprisonment of five to 15 years, while sexual assault is a class C felony, punishable by up to seven years, a fine of $5,000 or both, according to court documents.
Pio, who remains in custody unable to post a $25,000 bail, returns to court on Aug. 28 for his pre trial conference.
A court affidavit states that this incident came to light after police were contacted by a social worker that a 15-year old was pregnant, and this was confirmed by a relative of the girl.
During the police investigation, it was found that the girl had sexual contact with defendant in March and June of last year at a house in Fagali’i village, according to the affidavit which also detailed what the victim allegedly told police during the investigation.
She alleges that the defendant initiated the sexual act and forced himself on her in March and June of last year.
The affidavit also states that Pio allegedly told police in April this year that he had sexual acts with the girl, but couldn’t recall the number of times. He did say the last time was in January this year.
Pio is alleged to have told the police that he believes the girl is pregnant with his child.
RETIREMENT FUND LAWSUIT
The ASG Employees Retirement Fund’s current board of trustees “is considering the decision” handed down early last week by the Trial Division of the High Court, dismissing a lawsuit they filed against Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga, said local attorney Marcellus Talaimalo Uiagalelei, who represented the plaintiffs.
The board has "not yet decided on whether to proceed with an appeal or not, but I’m sure they’ll decide on something soon,” said Uiagalelei late last week, responding to Samoa News requests for comment on the court’s decision.
In the lawsuit, the board had argued that the governor’s new appointees, who are now with the Fono for consideration, are invalid because Lolo failed to consult with the plaintiffs as required by the retirement fund law.
The board believes that the law is clear in that the governor and the current board are to sit down for consultation to review suitable candidates.
However, the court disagrees saying that terms of the current board members have long expired and they are merely serving as “de facto” trustees and therefore have no legal authority, which includes the authority to sue.
The court also disagrees that the governor’s appointees sent to the Fono are invalid, saying that replacement appointments now pending in the Fono shall upon confirmation take office as new trustees. (See Samoa News edition of July 11 for details of the court’s decision).
Attorney representing James Fitiao has informed the High Court that a plea agreement has been reached with the government in this case.
Fitiao, who remains in custody unable to post a $60,000 bail, is facing multiple charges for allegedly having sexual acts with two 14-year old girls on numerous occasions.
The defendant, along with his attorney, assistant public defender Michael White, were in court yesterday for a pre trial conference, where the defense informed the court they have a “signed plea agreement” in this case, but it needs to be filed.
Associate Justice Lyle Richmond requested the defense to file the agreement with the court as soon as possible.
However, no date was announced for a change of plea hearing wherein the defendant will enter a new plea in accordance with the plea agreement.
Fitiao is 18 years old according to court filings, which also states that the defendant allegedly admitted to police to having sexual intercourse with the two girls on several occasions. Court documents also say the defendant is currently on probation for underage drinking and that the alcohol which the victims drank was from him.