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Jury selection today in sex case of 67-yr-old man and 9-yr-old girl

Pitone Sivatia

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The trial of a 67-year-old taxi driver from Pago Pago accused of sexually abusing a 9-year-old girl kicks off in High Court today at 9a.m. with jury selection.

The taxi driver is a tenant at a rental unit in Pago Pago, where the victim and her family also stay.

Pitone Sivatia, who has been in custody for over a year, unable to post a $5,000 surety bond is charged with sexual abuse in the first degree, a class D felony, and endangering the welfare of a child, a class A misdemeanor.

Sivatia has maintained his innocence since he was arrested Jan 30, 2018. He is represented by Assistant Public Defender Rob McNeill while prosecuting the case is Assistant Attorney General Laura Garvey.

During Sivatia’s second pretrial conference in April of last year, the defendant and his attorney received a plea offer from the government which was denied.

According to the government’s case, it was an off-duty officer who reported the matter.

Two officers arrived at the scene and met with the off-duty cop — the reporter — together with the alleged victim and her mother. According to the government, Sivatia is the victim’s neighbor, and he was inside his home when police arrived.

The victim, interviewed by two cops in the presence of her mother, said one of her neighbors (a male guy, named Tusi) asked her to go to the defendant’s house and ask to borrow 50-cents to buy soda. She said when she went over to Sivatia’s place, he met her at the door and asked her to come inside.

The victim told police that Sivatia escorted her to his bedroom — asking her to close the door behind her. He then gave her 50-cents and told her to come closer. She said she felt uncomfortable and told him she was going to leave.

According to the government’s case, Sivatia allegedly grabbed the girl by her left arm and began touching/ rubbing her body through her clothing — starting from her private parts and upward to her breasts.

She tried to escape because she could smell alcohol inside Sivatia’s bedroom and she also saw empty cans of beer in the trash bin. She said she knew something was weird with Sivatia, based on the way he was acting.

The court affidavit notes that during the interview, the victim was confident about the information she shared, but when she got to the part where she mentioned the touching, she began tearing up.

When questioned, the victim's mother said this was not the first incident with her family involving Sivatia.

She said there was an incident that occurred a year ago in which Sivatia sexually abused her older daughter, but it was not reported, because both parties decided to settle the matter privately.

Sivatia has denied everything. He told police he doesn't know if the alleged victim came to his room, and he never saw the 9-year-old at his house that entire day, and no one came to him to borrow 50-cents.

He said the only people that came to his house were his nieces who dropped off food in the morning, and his other niece who came by in the evening to hang out.

He told police that he had beer, left over from Saturday, and decided to drink it all on Sunday morning, and he finished drinking around noon.