Defendant’s daughter, in sexual assault case says, “I didn’t believe it”

fili@samoanews.com

The daughter of a man accused of sexually assaulting a 17-girl old girl has told a High Court jury that she doesn't believe what her father is accused of and she was never interviewed by police about the case, although she was home during the time the alleged assault occurred.

The testimony was provided during Day Three of testimony in the trial of local businessman, Mukesh ‘Bob’ Chand who is accused of sexually assaulting — between late evening of Apr. 6 and the wee hours of Apr. 7 this year, the 17-year old, who is a friend of the defendant’s daughter. He is charged with one count each of sodomy, deviate sexual assault, and first-degree sexual abuse.

The alleged victim was at Chand’s home working with the defendant’s daughter on putting together food plates for a fundraiser.

The defendant’s daughter took the witness stand yesterday morning and the testimony lasted through early afternoon. She told the jury that she has known the victim since their freshman year and became friends in their senior year at a local high school, where the victim’s mother is a teacher and the victim’s father a coach.

She explained that the victim’s father is “very nice... but also kind of strict... kind of very firm.”

Defense attorney, Richard Desaulles walked the witness through the events of Apr. 6 to the next day Apr. 7 — but later in the trial, Acting Associate Justice Elvis P. Patea told the defense to keep the questions short, stop “going-back-and forth” on the time frame of each specific event and don’t lead the witness in the way the questions are phrased.

According to the witness, she and her friend — the victim — were at her house (the defendant’s home), making plans for preparation of food plates to sell as a fundraiser. At that time, the pair made “plans to go see friends” at Cocoland that evening after cooking. These friends were contacted about the plans.

The witness said the victim, never told her parents about the plans to go out that night to visit friends at Cocoland. She said the victim spent the night at her home, and around 1a.m., the pair planned to go see their friends at Cocoland.

So the pair went to the defendant’s bedroom, to ask for permission to leave the house at that time of the night or 1a.m. Apr. 7, to see one of their close female friends, who lives in Cocoland. Instead the witness said she and the victim were told by her dad that not much money is made by selling food and that the dad spoke more about businesses where money could be made.

The victim “suddenly said that she wanted to go see her boyfriend,” the witness testified, adding that “I was surprised that she [the victim] blurted that out.”

In response, the dad told the victim that “she was too young to have a boy friend” and asked whether the victim’s parents knew that the victim had a boyfriend, according to the witness, who added that her dad then told her to take the friend (victim) home.

Asked by the defense as to the victim’s reaction to what the defendant (dad) told the pair, the witness said the victim “seemed depressed” and “upset, I guess.”

(When cross examined later by the government if she is “sure that the victim was depressed,” the witness gave a firm “yes” adding that the victim was “disappointed.”

Thereafter the victim went to the couch and tapped on her iPad and the witness went to the kitchen to clean up and didn’t finish until around 3a.m. on Apr. 7. Around 4a.m., the witness said she observed the victim sleeping on the couch hugging her iPad and she covered her with a blanket.

The victim had testified earlier this week that her friend’s bedroom (the defendant’s daughter) was cold because the air conditioner was on. Therefore she slept on the couch in the living room because the air conditioner was turned off.

Responding to the defense’s questions yesterday, the witness (defendant’s daughter) testified that the air conditioner was on in the living room, because this area of the house has no windows and it’s the reason she covered the victim with a blanket.

The defense also had questions to counter testimonies earlier this week from the victim, that the defendant’s house is gated and there is one exit out of the area and the gate door is locked from the inside and only the defendant has the key.

However, the witness testified that there are four gate doors to exit and enter, and at least two of those exit/ entrance gate doors, there is enough room, for a “person my size” — meaning small in stature — “to squeeze through”. (Both the victim and the witness are small sized.)

The witness also testified that the key is always placed in the living room, next to the TV but she wasn’t sure if the key was there at the morning in question.

According to the witness, she slept in her bedroom and the victim woke her up around 7:40a.m. (Apr. 7) and “showed me her iPad.”

The defense asked as to what the victim told her at that time, but the government quickly objected, as the response would be considered hearsay.

The defense then touched on specific events of the morning of Apr. 7 when the pair worked on getting their food plates ready, going to the store to get bread and other duties. At least five times throughout this line of questioning, of the events, Desaulles asked about the victim’s “general mood” and “demeanor”.

The witness gave similar responses each time — the victim “seemed normal... quite normal... nothing out of the ordinary… she seems ok, happy... she seemed alright, nothing unusual”.

At one time, the witness said that “we were all making jokes and listening to music” in the car while delivering food plates. (See yesterday’s edition as to what another friend told the jury of the victim’s demeanor after the alleged incident.)

The defense also questioned the witness as to who was around the home — which is next to the defendant’s business operation — during the time that the two were in and out of the house. The witness said there were workers for her dad’s business, and there was a time that she said she observed her dad talking to a church pastor.

Asked by Desaulles as to when she first heard of the charges in this case against her father, the witness said it was Sunday morning (Apr. 8), when police came to their home for them to “come down to the police station.”

“I asked why, and the police officer said we just need you to come down,” the witness testified, and they went to the police station (referring to the Tafuna substation), where she was told by a female police officer that “my dad did something” to the victim.

Asked for specifics of what the female officer told her, the witness replied, “She [police officer] said dad raped her [the victim].”

During his time, the witness said she was in the lobby area of the police station while her father was being questioned in another room.

And when told about the details of the case against her father, the witness recalled, “I said, I didn’t believe it. It can’t be true.”

“I don’t believe them,” the witness said referring to the specific details and the charges against her father.  She also said that police never interviewed her or sought her statement about the case, when she was home during the alleged sexual assault.

During cross examination, Assistant Attorney General Woodrow Pengelly challenged several of the witness’ testimony.

One of the challenges dealt with the witness testifying that she and the victim were going to use an excuse for going out late at night to see friends at Cocoland and not tell her father the truth.

“So you admitted that you were going to lie to your father,” Pengelly asked, to which the witness said, “yes”.

Yesterday was also the continuation of testimony by the defendant’s housekeeper, that started Wednesday.

The housekeeper told the jury that she had not talked to the defendant about the case. She had worked for the defendant for four years but since September this year, she is no longer employed by the defendant. She said that upon returning from Samoa for family obligations, she decided to say home to take care of her family.

After the housekeeper’s testimony — which centered mainly on specific times of the morning of Apr. 7 — the court room was cleared, including the jury, as the court conducted a review on camera of evidence, if such is admissible in court.

The trial is expected to wrap up today, before the three-day Christmas holiday break.

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