Pastor accused of sexually abusing his daughter denies charges
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — “In the name of God, nothing happened between me and my daughter. I did not sexually abuse her nor I did I do anything to harm her.”
These were the words from the 56-year-old pastor who is accused of sexually abusing his 13-year-old biological daughter, when he took the stand during Day 3 of his trial in High Court this week.
(Samoa News is withholding the defendant's name, to protect the identity of the victim, who is a minor).
The pastor is charged with sodomy, first degree sexual abuse, deviate sexual assault, and incest — all felonies — and one misdemeanor charge of endangering the welfare of a child.
It was a quick case for the government, as they only called two witnesses: the police officer who assisted in questioning the defendant back in 2016, and the doctor who examined the victim when she was brought to the LBJ Hospital for examination immediately after the alleged incident.
The defense, on the other hand, called 4 witnesses: the defendant and his 3 young children.
Sgt. Misi Leo, one of the two officers who interviewed the pastor in 2016, testified that the pastor signed an admission statement whereby he admitted to everything his daughter told police.
When cross examined by the defense attorney, Misi said the pastor did not sign any other form besides the admission form which contained his confession. Furthermore, Leo testified that the pastor needed help with reading and writing, so he and another officer assisted him.
The last two witnesses the defense called to the stand were the pastor and his son, an eighth grader.
According to the boy’s sworn testimony, on the night of Dec. 6, 2016, he slept in the living room with his parents, his sisters and brother, and even the victim.
He told the court that it was he who slept with his father on the bed; however, later that night, his sister (the victim) came over and chased him down because she wanted to sleep with their father, the defendant.
The witness said he agreed, and he and his sister switched spots. He said that's when he went and slept with his mother while his sister (the victim) slept with their dad on the bed.
Around 3 a.m, the boy said, they all woke up when their mother’s alarm went off — it was time for their mom to get ready for work. But before their mom left the house, they first had a prayer meeting. Afterwards, their mom left for work and he, along with his sisters and brother, and the victim, got ready for school.
“Did your father and your sister, the victim, ever stay in the room alone while you were preparing for school?” defense attorney Rob McNeill asked the witness, who replied, "No”.
“Did you ever hear your sister screaming out loud and begging for help on the morning of Dec. 6, 2016?” McNeill asked. The boy said, “No, I did not hear anything like that inside our house that morning, nor did I see my father do anything wrong to my sister.”
In cross examination, prosecutor Robert Morris asked the witness if he ever discussed the case with his father. The boy said no.
Morris asked who was inside the house on the morning of Dec. 6 and the witness said it was him, his sisters, his brother, the victim, and their father.
After the boy’s testimony, the defense called the pastor to the stand.
McNeill asked his client four times if he ever sexually abused his daughter on the morning of Dec. 6, 2016. The defendant replied, “No, I did not. I love my daughter as much as I love all of my other four children.”
The defendant was given the chance to tell his side of the story.
According to him, on the day in question, he, along with his wife, spoke to his daughter, the victim, about her behavior. They tried to discipline her on how to behave and dress inside their house, including the way she dresses in front of her brothers and the whole family.
After their prayer meeting on the morning of the alleged incident, the defendant said he left for work and his children, including the victim, left for school.
He said he works as a mechanic for a local construction company and he was assigned to the wharf that morning. Around 11:00 a.m, two police officers approached him at the wharf and asked him to come with them to the police station to discuss something very important.
The defendant said that during the conversation with the officers, they asked him if it was true that he sexually assaulted his daughter, and he told them he never did such a thing to his daughter.
The defendant testified that towards the end of their conversation, another officer handed him a yellow piece of paper and told him to copy what was written on it, on to another piece of paper. The officer also instructed him to sign the paper after he copied all the words down.
The defendant told the jury that he’s not good in reading or writing, as he dropped out of school during ‘Standard Three’ in Samoa, which is equivalent to 6th grade in the territory.
The defendant said the officers told him that after he copies what was written and signs it, he is free to go back to work, and nothing will happen to him.
“Did you go back to work after you wrote down what was written on the yellow piece of paper?” McNeill asked his client. The defendant replied, “No, after I signed the paper, the police arrested me and I wasn't able to go back to work that day.”
“Did you realize that what you wrote down and signed were serious admissions to this alleged incident?” McNeill asked his client. The defendant replied, “No, I did not.”
During cross-examination, Robert asked the witness whether he understood what he wrote down when the officers gave him the chance to write a confession. The defendant said he did not understand what was on the paper. He was told by officers to copy what was written and sign it.
Robert asked the defendant whether he knows how to read and write and the witness replied, “I can read, but not too fast. I can also write, but it takes time for me to write something down.”
“So, are you telling the jury that you’re a church pastor but you don’t know how to read the Bible that you have just placed on hand on?” Robert asked. The defendant replied, “It’s my faith in God which led me to be a certified ordained pastor, and God can use a person who does not know how to read and write to be a pastor.”
“Did you read what you wrote down on the piece of paper you signed?” Robert asked the witness. His response was, “The officer held the yellow piece of paper while I copied it down on to another paper.”
Robert walked over to the witness and handed him the paper he signed. He then instructed the witness to read what he wrote to the jury; and the defendant had a hard time reading what he wrote on the paper to the jury.
The trial resumes at 9:00 a.m for closing arguments and final jury instructions from the court, before the case goes to the jury for deliberation.