Misdemeanor charges for cops accused of sexual harassment
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The government is charging the two DPS senior police officers accused of sexually harassing two female cops. This was confirmed to Samoa News by a reliable source. One of the cops is on-island; the other has resigned and left for Australia.
Samoa News did not seek any input from Police Commissioner Le’i Sonny Thompson because he has already indicated that he will no longer comment to Samoa News inquiries.
The case against Lt. Siaosi Aiono and Officer Emanuele Lito was filed in District Court earlier this week on Monday, and both defendants are being charged with a single count of 3rd degree assault, a class C misdemeanor, punishable by up to 15 days in jail, or a fine of up to $300 — or both.
After the case was filed, Judge Fiti Sunia issued a summons and ordered both defendants to appear in court at 8:30a.m. May 25th for their initial appearances.
Officer Lito was served immediately after his case was filed but Lt. Aiono was not, because he had left the Territory for Australia on Sunday before the case against him was filed the next day — Monday morning.
Officer Lito confirmed to Samoa News that he received a copy of the criminal complaint against him on Monday.
Sources say Lt. Aiono has to be on island before his scheduled court date, and he has to appear in court when his case is called. If not, there is a chance the government will ask the court to issue an arrest warrant for him.
Lt. Aiono officially resigned from DPS last week. Several police officers told Samoa News they were shocked to hear the news of Aiono's resignation.
Some have asked, "Why were the two police officers not charged with felonies for their actions?"
A source told Samoa News it's because American Samoa doesn't have a sexual harassment law, and the government therefore can only charge them with a misdemeanor.
Samoa News was able to interview both of the accused on different occasions when the sexual harassment cases popped up last month. They have both denied the allegations against them but admit there was “physical contact” between them and the two alleged female victims.
One of the elements of Assault in the 3rd Degree is: (5) “knowingly causes physical contact with another person knowing the other person will regard the contact as offensive or provocative.”
Samoa News understands the two cases were handled by the Attorney General's Office, immediately after the matters were published in the newspaper. AG Talauega Eleasalo Ale assigned the cases to an independent investigator.
Head of the AG’s Criminal Division, Christy Dunn declined to comment when Samoa News approached her yesterday morning.
OFFICER LITO’S CASE
The case against Officer Lito has to do with an incident last year when he and the victim were both working at the DPS Fagaitua Substation.
For the incident, the victim alleges that while they were in a police unit, Lito, who was the supervisor, reached across and brushed her face, and his hand dropped down to her left breast. Another male officer was also in the vehicle at the time.
The victim said the contact “made me feel extremely uncomfortable to the point where I was starting to get angry with him. I felt violated so I told him, “aua koe kago mai oe ia a’u” (Don’t touch me again).” The victim alleges Lito said nothing, he only laughed like it was a joke.
At the substation, the supervisor continued to make sexual innuendoes. “I ignored him,” she said, “and because I was extremely uncomfortable and ready to remove myself, I left the cables alone," the victim wrote in her statement. "He then said, 'E le aoga lou fia mea ia a’u, e ke le iloa mea'." (It's a shame that you want to have sex with me but you don't know how."
He allegedly didn't stop there.
While the female cop was sitting in the office, Lito allegedly tried to kiss her. It was when she turned around that Lito allegedly kissed her cheek. Lito is alleged to have taken it further, grabbing her face in an effort to plant a kiss on her mouth but the female cop pushed him away.
He then allegedly walked outside laughing, like nothing had happened.
In an earlier interview with Samoa News, Lito said he thought the case was over and done with last year, after a meeting with Le'i and the female cop. He said he doesn't know what to say, as he has already apologized to the female cop, her parents, and also Le'i about what happened.
"They also told me nothing would come out later, but look at it now. The case will be on the news and my wife and children will read it and become embarrassed about what happened,” he said.
When asked about the allegations, Lito paused for a few seconds and said, “I swear to God, it was nothing serious. We were joking and playing inside the car, and that's when I reached out to her and brushed her shoulder."
When asked if he ever touched the female cop’s breast, Lito said, “I can't recall whether I touched her breast or not; all I remember is that I touched her shoulder and it wasn't anything serious.”
Lito is still working at DPS.
LT. AIONO’S CASE
Lt. Aiono was suspended for 5 days without pay on the first week of April, immediately after the alleged incident involving a female officer at the Tafuna Substation surfaced. It's alleged that when the matter came to light, the female officer was immediately transferred to the DPS Criminal Investigation Division (CID).
The alleged victim had reported the incident to her supervisor, who then verbally reported the matter to the DPS Internal Affairs (IA) and an internal investigation was launched.
Samoa News understands the alleged victim was in Aiono's office and while she was bending down to reach for a drink from inside the fridge, she felt somebody touching her butt in a sexual manner.
She said when she stood up to see who had touched her, Aiono allegedly tried to kiss her on the mouth. She quickly turned her mouth to the side and Aiono’s lips allegedly touched her cheeks. That's when the female officer asked, “What's wrong with you?”
Without saying a word, Aiono allegedly kept at it, reaching for the female officer’s jaw, trying to face her towards him, and that’s when he allegedly kissed her. The female officer closed her mouth to avoid Aiono’s tongue from touching her mouth, according to the complaint. That's when she allegedly pushed him away and walked out.
A few moments later, Aiono is alleged to have exited the room, slamming the door and saying, “Oh Dammit” while making his way out of the office.
The female officer declined to comment when contacted by Samoa News last month, but Lt. Aiono did. He denied everything.
“Nothing like that happened,” he said. “I did not sexually harass her nor was I inappropriate with her. I was just playing around. It wasn't anything serious, it was like normal behavior that always happens in other working places — when people normally play around with other co-workers, but nothing serious.”
When asked about his 5-day suspension without pay, his response was, “It was the Commissioner’s decision to suspend me and I have to respect his decision. Whatever his decision is, I will honor it because this is what he feels is the right thing to do.”
Lt. Aiono was convicted by former District Court Judge John L Ward II of 3rd degree assault a few years back, and was sentenced to serve 30 days at the TCF, as part of a one-year probation sentence.
The conviction was for assaulting a bus driver in front of the Atu'u canneries — while he was in uniform.