Salend Singh is a free man after jury acquits in sex trial
Tears of joy were seen in High Court yesterday afternoon when the jury delivered their verdict of “not guilty” to all four charges filed by the American Samoa government against Salend Singh, who is now a free man.
A six-member jury took over two hours to deliberate on their verdict, after hearing all evidence in the case during a 3-day trial. Singh was found not guilty to Count 1- attempted sodomy; Count 2- attempted deviate sexual assault; Count 3- attempted sexual abuse, and Count 4- kidnapping.
Singh’s attorney, Marcellus T. Uiagalelei hugged his client after the Court Clerk read out the verdict in open court, while Singh broke into tears when he heard the verdict. His wife, daughter and family members, who were also inside the courtroom hugged each other with tears of joy.
Before dismissing the jury, Acting Associate Justice Elvis. P. Patea thanked them for their service and wished them luck. Associate Judges Mamea Sala Jr and Paepae I. Faiai assisted on the bench.
“… the defendant is free to go”, Patea said, before ordering the court to dismiss.
When asked for a comment outside of the courthouse of the verdict, Prosecutor Robert Morris said that he respected the jury’s verdict. Asked if he believes the government failed to prove every single element of the case, Morris responded, while continuing to walk away from Samoa News, “No comment. I respect the jury’s verdict.”
According to a statement from the Singh family, they thanked God for allowing the truth to be heard. They cited scripture from the Bible, saying, “Things that are impossible with men are possible with God.
“During our times of trial, this scripture has been the key motivation for us. We the family of Singh would like to thank all of our pastors, friends and family that continuously lifted us in prayers and prayed for justice to be served. And sincerest gratitude to our lawyer Mr. Uiagalelei for defending us well.”
Prosecutor Woodrow Pengelly reminded the jury that the government’s duty is to present all the evidence to prove its case, while their job is to weigh all the evidence and return with a guilty verdict on all four counts.
Reviewing evidence presented during the trial Pengelly said that the defense is not disputing the fact that the defendant offered a ride to the boy and drove him to school that morning.
What the defense is disputing, according to the government, is that the defendant’s vehicle didn’t got up to Mt. Logotala and the defendant never committed any of the actions alleged.
“If this is what they claimed — that the defendant’s vehicle with the victim inside never went up to Mt. Logotala, why did the little boy memorize the vehicle’s plate number and report it to police, if he knew that the driver was nice to him and offered him a ride and gave him $2,” Pengelly told the jury.
“The little boy was seen by his teacher crying that morning; and he was also seen by his fellow students crying that morning. Why was it this little boy got upset and looked sad that day, if that was the last day of school, and everyone is looking forward to the end of school season?”
Of the victim’s Santa Claus hat, Pengelly told the jury that according to the evidence the government presented in court, the hat the victim wore that morning when he was picked up by the defendant in his vehicle, was the same hat the police found at the secure area on top of Mt. Logotala — and also the same hat the defendant testified he didn’t see the alleged victim wear.
About the $2 the victim claimed the defendant gave him that morning, Pengelly told the jury that’s the reason the defendant gave the money to the victim — to calm him down.
In defense of his client, Singh’s attorney, Marcellus T. Uiagalelei told the jurors, “No good deed goes unpunished is the theme for today.”
He stated, “This case will ultimately come down to whom you are willing to believe —the government’s version of the story or my client’s version of the story.”
Uiagalelei said the government’s story is based mostly on an account of a witness, who told different versions of the story to his teacher, to police officers and to the jury; based on the testimony of a young police officer who back in Dec. 2015 was a trainee, but also based on the evidence the government claimed they found, but made no effort to show to prove their claim.
“Their version of the story is based on their appeal to your emotions as human beings, selling to you a story of a bad and mean old man who tried to harm a young child — but my client’s version … makes more sense and is much more believable than what was sold to you by the government,” he told the jurors.
Uiagalelei then reviewed his client’s version of the story and compared it to the government’s version of the story that they want the jurors to believe.
He hammered home the “inconsistent pieces of evidence” the government presented during the trial for example pointing to the victim’s testimony when he said in his own words that when they got in front of the CCCAS church in Iliili, the defendant opened his pants and exposed himself to him while he was driving; and he tried to get out of the vehicle but he could not.
Yet in his written statement to police, Uiagalelei said it shows no evidence that the victim told these things to police when he was questioned on the day of the alleged incident.
The victim also stated in his testimony that he was really scared and terrified when the defendant forced him to touch his private parts, which caused him to run down the mountain, but when the defendant’s vehicle come back and offered him a ride, he got back inside the vehicle.
About the mysterious Santa Claus hat, Uiagalelei told the jurors that if it was evidence in this case, the government should have presented it during the trial — but it wasn’t presented.
“Did this hat really belong to the victim? We don’t know — nothing was done by police to make sure the hat belonged to the victim. All we have is an assumption from the government made by a young police officer, who was a trainee at the time, of the alleged offense, because the lead investigator is no longer working as a police officer,” Uiagalelei told the jurors.
“So - the government is failed to prove this case. Their burden in this case is to prove all elements of these charges to you beyond a reasonable doubt, and because they failed, I ask you to acquit my client for all of these charges,” the defense attorney concluded.
And they did.