Court Report

Translated by Samoa News staff

SANELE AH CHONG

The High Court last Friday sentenced a thirty-year old father of two to serve seven years behind bars in connection with an incident last year where he had a sexual act with a 14-year-old girl, after giving her alcohol.

Ah Chong was initially charged with three-felony counts — rape, sexual assault of a minor and first degree sexual abuse — and one misdemeanor of distributing alcohol to a minor. But under the plea agreement, which was read publicly in court in August this year, Ah Chong pled guilty to sexual assault of a minor.

For his guilty plea, the defendant admitted that in December 2015, he allegedly had a sexual act with the minor. According to court documents, the minor was taken by the defendant to his home, given alcohol so she (the minor) would stay and party with him. It also says that the pair partied for a while, when the defendant noticed the victim was intoxicated. It was this time that the defendant committed the sexual act on the minor.

At the time, the court took the plea agreement under advisement, while the Probation Office conducted a sentence report.

The court finally issued a verbal decision last Friday during the defendant’s sentencing hearing, accepting the plea agreement while dismissing the other charges. Prior to the court handing down the jail sentence, the defendant apologized to the court as well as the victim and her family. He asked for leniency from the court.

Ah Chong’s wife provided character witness testimony and asked the court for a chance to allow her husband on work release to earn money to take care of her and the couple’s two children, if the defendant is given a jail sentence.

While Ah Chong’s attorney, assistant public defender Michael White sought leniency in the sentence, assistant attorney general Jerard Murphy argued for a more severe punishment. Murphy said that not only did the defendant gave the victim alcohol, but also had a sexual act with the minor, who’s life is now changed forever.

Besides the lengthy jail term, Chief Justice Michael Kruse also ordered that the defendant undergo HIV testing and register as a sex offender.

Kruse was flanked on the bench by associate judges Fa’amausili Pomele and Muasau Tasina Tofili. (Original Samoan story was published in the Lali section of Monday’s Samoa News edition).

Also sentenced last Friday for having a sexual act last December with the same 14-year-od minor at Ah Chong’s home was Lalopau Lopa, who got 20 months in jail. (See yesterday’s court report on details.)

TWO CHARGED WITH ASSAULTING YOUTH

Two young men have been charged with three misdemeanor counts for allegedly assaulting a 15-year-old male in Fagaima last week.

The pair, Sio Faoatau and Reuben Faoatau, are each charged with third degree assault, endangering the welfare of a minor and public peace disturbance, according to court information, which didn’t reveal the relationship between the defendants (with the same last name).

The defendants allegedly assaulted the victim after the pair suspected that it was the 15-year-old who threw rocks at them. According to the government’s case, Reuben allegedly kicked the victim and threatened to shoot him, while Sio is accused of hitting the victim with a golf club.

The defendants made their initial appearance last Friday in District Court where they were released on their own recognizance and were ordered not to make any direct or indirect contact with the victim. They were also ordered to be law-abiding citizens, with their next court hearing early next month. (See today’s Lali section of Samoa News for original Samoan story on this case.)

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