Sexual assault trial involving 13-year-old schoolboy gets underway
The jury trial of a businessman who is charged with attempted sexually assault of a 13-year-old school boy over two years ago began yesterday in the High Court.
The government charged Salene Singh with 4 criminal courts; attempted sodomy, attempted sexual assault, attempted sexual abuse in the first degree, and kidnapping. A six-member jury — four females and two males — was selected on Monday.
During opening statements, prosecutor Robert Morris explained to the jurors what the government is saying — that the “facts of the case are simple,” while defense attorney, Marcellus T. Uiagalelei informed the jurors that they must not get to a conclusion in the case until they have heard evidence from both sides of the case.
Morris’ co-counsel is Woodrow Pengelly, who is assisting him throughout the proceedings.
PROSECUTOR’S OPENING REMARKS.
The government claims that on the morning of Sept. 18, 2015, the victim who was a 13-year-old boy at the time of the alleged incident was standing on the road in Vaitogi, waiting for a bus to go to school. The victim was wearing a Christmas uniform, including a Santa Clause hat.
While waiting for a bus to go to school, a green pick-up driven by the defendant stopped in front of the victim and the defendant offered the victim a ride to school — the victim agreed and got inside the defendant’s vehicle.
The defendant then allegedly drove his car toward the victim’s school, but instead of stopping in front of the school to drop off the victim, the defendant allegedly continued his vehicle toward the road to Vaitogi, and further to the dead-end road up to Mt. Logotala.
The government claims that the victim started to be concerned when the vehicle did not stop at his school.
At that time, the defendant allegedly told the victim that they are going to the beach first. The defendant’s vehicle headed to the top of Mt. Logotala, and when the vehicle reached a secure area on the top of the road, the defendant stopped his vehicle, and allegedly pulled down his pants, exposed his private parts to the victim and started touching the victim in a sexual manner. The defendant also told the victim to touch his private parts.
According to the government, the victim told the defendant that he can’t do what he wants him to do. The victim was then able to get out of the defendant’s vehicle and walked down from the mountain and finally got down to the main road.
The defendant followed the victim and when he got to the victim, convinced him to get in the car so that he could drop him at his school. The victim agreed and got inside the defendant’s vehicle and the defendant dropped him at school.
Inside the classroom, the government stated that the victim’s teacher saw the victim crying that morning, while he was telling other students what had happened. That is when the teacher asked the victim to explain what had happened and police were called for assistance.
In this case, the government plans to call three witnesses including the victim, his teacher and the police officer who investigated the case.
Morris told the jury that the Santa Clause hat the victim was wearing that morning was found by police on the top of Mt. Logotala, the scene where the alleged crime took place.
Uiagalelei told the jurors that this trial would be difficult for all of them, because it involves a minor child and sexual accusations against his client.
He asked the jurors to not make up their minds after just hearing the government’s witnesses, but to wait until both sides present their evidence.
“We have a job to do in this case. My job is to represent my client, counsel Morris’s job is to make sure he prosecutes my client for all these accusations, and your job is to make sure my client receives a fair trial in this case,” the defense said.
“So that’s why I ask you to keep an open mind because this always comes down to who you’re going to believe. At the end of this trial, the government’s theory of the case makes no sense,” Uiagalelei concluded.
After attorneys from both sides presented their opening remarks, the court then recessed to await the arrival of the victim. After a 20-minute recess, the court was reconvened and the government called the victim as their first witness to testify. That testimony will be reported on in Wednesday’s edition.
The trial resumes at 9 a.m. today.
The case is being heard by Acting Associate Justice Elvis P. Patea, assisted by Associate Judges Mamea Sala Jr and Paepae I. Faiai.