Trial of 87-year-old accused of multiple sex abuse charges begins
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The jury trial of an 87-year-old who is accused of multiple sexual abuse charges involving two young females began yesterday in High Court.
Joseph Yandall, who is out on a $75,000 surety bond is charged with one count of child molestation, a felony which carries a maximum 30 year jail sentence if convicted; attempted kidnapping and attempted sexual abuse in the first degree, both class D felonies, each carrying a maximum 5 year jail sentence if convicted.
A six-member jury, one female and five males, was selected Monday to hear the case.
Prosecuting the case is Assistant Attorney General, Christy Dunn, assisted by Deputy Attorney General, Lornalei Meredith, while representing Yandall is private attorney Gwen Tauiliili-Langkilde, assisted by another private attorney, Marcellus T. Uiagalelei.
The government started their case by calling the two alleged victims in this case to the stand, followed by the testimony from the lead investigating police officer, a detective from the DPS Criminal Investigation Division (CID).
Both alleged victims told the jury what allegedly happen around November of 2016 when Yandall offered them a ride to school. One victim lived in Nuuuli while the other lived in Iliili, and both were underage during the time of the alleged incident.
The first witness told the jury that Yandall offered her a ride to school one morning, by pulling his vehicle to the side of the road and asking her if he could give her a ride to school. The victim agreed and then jumped inside the defendant’s vehicle.
The victim did not recall the exact date and time, but she recalled what happened when Yandall picked her up while waiting for a bus to school. While she was inside the vehicle with Yandall, the defendant asked her if they could have sex. The defendant then allegedly touched her leg but she told him to stop.
The witness-victim further told the jury that Yandall also gave her money after he allegedly touched her leg.
When asked by the defense attorney if she’s telling the truth to the jury, the witness stated that her testimony was the truth. She also said that she didn’t want to come to the court to testify on what allegedly happened to her almost two years ago, but the reason why she wanted to testify was to let the truth out so that this will not happen to another young girl like her.
The witness also stated that she gave two separate statements to the police when she was interviewed last year. In her first statement, she told police what happened to her, but in her second statement, she described in detail the whole alleged incident between her and Yandall.
When asked about why she did not tell anybody what allegedly happened in the first place, the witness stated that she was scared of her mother, and at the same time embarrassed that people will make fun of her if they found out what allegedly happened.
The court went into a brief recess after the first witness’ testimony, and when the court reconvened, the government called their second witness, who is also the alleged second victim. She was 17 years old during the time of the alleged incident.
According to the second witness, she knew Yandall through her friend (who is the other victim in this case).
After her friend introduced her to Yandall, the witness said that there were times Yandall picked her up on the road when she was waiting for a bus to go to school, and dropped her off at school.
She also recalled another day when Yandall came to her house and called out her name. She came out of her house and Yandall asked her if she wanted to go to Two-Dollar Beach. She replied yes.
“After I told Yandall that I wanted to go to the Two-Dollar Beach, I asked him if we could pick up my girlfriend (the other alleged victim), along with my other friend (her boyfriend at the time), and Yandall said yes, “we’ll pick up my two friends,” the witness told the jury.
According to the witness-victim, they all had a good time at Two-Dollar Beach and nothing happened there.
She then described another time Yandall picked her up while she was waiting for the bus to go to school, and this time her friend (the other victim) was also in the vehicle. He dropped them both off at school.
However, there was one specific morning according to the witness’ statement when Yandall once again picked her up while she was waiting for a bus to go to school. He offered her a ride and she agreed, and then jumped inside his vehicle and noticed that Yandall was alone inside his vehicle.
According to the witness, “While I was sitting in the passenger’s seat inside Yandall’s vehicle, he reached to the side I was sitting and allegedly touched my leg. He then forced me to kissed him and also asked me if I could have sex with him,” the witness told the jury.
“Where was Yandall when he allegedly did this to you,” the prosecutor asked the witness. The witness responded, saying Yandall was driving his car.
Immediately after the incident, the witness told Yandall to stop the vehicle. Yandall then unlocked the passenger door, and the witness exited the vehicle.
According to the witness, that was the only time Yandall allegedly did something like that to her.
The trial resumes at 9 a.m. today.
The case is being heard by Acting Associate Judge, Elvis P. Patea, assisted by Associate Judges Satele Lili’o Satele and Tunupopo Alalafaga.