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Court sentences four men to 28 months in jail for sex with a minor

Chief Justice Michael Kruse handed down a 28-month prison sentence for each of the four men charged with having sexual intercourse with a 13-year old girl. Tavita Mariota, Anthony Sioka, Lewis Lokeni and Peni Levi were each charged with sexual assault, a class D felony punishable by up to seven years in jail, a fine of up to $5,000 or both, and endangering the welfare of a child, a class A misdemeanor that carries a jail term of up to one year in jail, a fine of up to $1,000 or both.  


The men entered into a plea agreement with the government in which they pleaded guilty to the sexual assault charge in exchange for the dismissal of the remaining charge.


Prior to sentencing, all four men pleaded with the court for leniency and asked for second chances to allow them to return home to care for their parents and families.


Acting Public Defender Mike White who represented the defendants asked the court to take into consideration the ages of the defendants and their remorse for their actions, and to look at the future that lies ahead for them.


Kruse told the young men that the crime of having sex with a girl 16 years old or younger is a serious matter. He pointed to a law passed by the Fono that disallows girls 16 and under to engage in sexual conduct, because they are not mature enough to know the consequences of sex.


Kruse noted the initial charges the four men faced had more severe penalties and the defendants could have faced up to 15 years in jail; however, the government filed new charges carrying a penalty of up to seven years.


 The Chief Justice noted the defendants’ pleas for a second chance to return home to care for their families yet, according to the pre-sentence report, none of the defendants are gainfully employed. In addition, two of the defendants have previous records with the District Court for public peace disturbance.


Kruse said the victim in this case was 13 years old at the time of the incident and it’s the Court’s job to protect young girls from these types of incidents. He made it clear that this type of behavior is unacceptable to the Court. The defendants were each sentenced to seven-year jail terms but execution of sentencing is suspended and the defendants are placed on probation for seven years under certain conditions.


The defendants were ordered to serve 28 months in prison, and they are not allowed to contact the victim directly or indirectly upon being released from jail. They were also ordered to register as sex offenders and undergo HIV testing as mandated by law for any registered sex offender.


According to the government’s case, the incident came to light when a truancy officer at Lupelele Elementary School contacted police about a possible sex case after observing “love bite marks” on a 14-year-old girl’s neck. During the investigation, the victim told police that she had engaged in sexual intercourse with the four defendants, at different times, from August 2011 to April 2012. All 4 defendants admitted to police having sex with the minor.


The victim's father told police that his daughter swallowed Clorox bleach on April 30, 2012, in an attempt to hurt herself. The victim told police that she attempted to kill herself after a teacher discovered the love bite marks on her neck and questioned her about them.