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Former janitor sentenced to 20 months for sexual relations with minor

Chief Justice Michael Kruse  [SN file photo]

John Luao Iosefo, was sentenced last Friday to 20 months imprisonment, a condition of his 5-year probation term.

Iosefo, 23, was a janitor at Fatu o Aiga when he pled guilty to first degree sexual abuse for having sexual intercourse with a minor.

He was arrested in January 2015 and initially charged with two counts of statutory rape, two counts of sexual abuse first degree, and endangering the welfare of a child.

However, under a plea agreement with the government, Iosefo pled guilty to one of the two sexual abuse counts, and the remaining charges were dismissed.

With his guilty plea, Iosefo admits that some time on Dec. 20, 2014 he had sexual intercourse with a 14-year-old girl.

According to the government’s case, the incident came to light when social workers took the 14-year-old girl to the Department of Public Safety, noting that she was involved in sexual activity with Iosefo, who was 21 at the time of the incident.

Court filings state that on January 11, 2015 the girl stayed behind with her brother while their parents visited family members in Malaeimi. When the parents returned home, they scolded the girl for not going with them.

The girl was so upset with her parents that she wrote them a letter telling them her intentions to leave the family and move elsewhere.

The girl then called her boyfriend to meet her in front of the Hope House Daycare at 11p.m. that night. (The said location is behind a house at Fatu o Aiga, behind the cemetery.)

The girl returned home and told her brother what had happened and took her brother with her. On the same day she was picked up by social workers.

According to court filings, the girl told police that she and her brother could not return home, as their father had chased them both out of the house. She further informed the police that she had sex for the first time with the defendant in December 2014.

Police later spoke to the defendant, who is from Samoa, and he told them that he was dating the 14-year-old girl. He also admitted that he had sex with her twice.

Before addressing the court, Iosefo’s stepmother took the stand, apologized for his actions, and asked the court to give him another chance to continue on with his life and assist her and her husband in the development of their family.

The stepmother said that Iosefo was under her care when he was only 5 months old, and even though she hasn’t legally adopted him, she still considers him as her own son, and wants him to know that she still cares, she still loves him.

Speaking about what happened, she told the court that on the night Iosefo was arrested by police, she and her husband went to the victim's house to apologize to her parents, and the parents told them that it's what children do.

“John is an obedient son. Although he is convicted of a serious crime, I still believe that he can change his life if the court gives him a second chance. He’s the kind of person who loves to help other people, including his friends,” said Iosefo’s stepmother.

Iosefo also apologized to the court for his actions and asked for another chance to continue to serve his family. He also apologized to the victim and her family and asked them for forgiveness.

Iosefo’s attorney, Douglas Fiaui said that one of the interesting things about his client, as mentioned in the Probation Report, is that he not only is a man of perfect character, he is also a man who loves to serve his church and his family.

However, on the other side of the coin, he was convicted of a felony, because of his relationship with a 14-year-old girl.

Fiaui asked the court to sentence his client to probation, and allow him to continue with his contribution to his family, through his job.

Chief Justice Michael Kruse told Fiaui that according to the probation report, his client’s immigration status does not allow him to work in American Samoa, unless the Immigration Board approves it.

Assistant Attorney General Woodrow Pengelly opposed Fiaui’s request for a probated sentence, and asked the court to sentence the defendant to the maximum jail term under the law.

Although the government received many supporting letters from members of the defendant’s church, his family, and his friends, the government felt that the only way to stop the defendant from seeing the victim again is to order him to depart the territory, after he serves a jail term ordered by the court.

Iosefo was sentenced to five years in jail; however, the execution of the sentence was suspended and the defendant is placed on five years probation on the condition that he serves 20 months at the TCF, submits himself for HIV testing, and registers as a sex offender, as required by statute.

Upon release from jail, he is to depart the territory and remain outside for the duration of his probation.

Kruse also ordered the government’s attorney to serve a copy of the court’s judgment to the Immigration Office and Board.