Samoa Court Report

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STEPFATHER SENTENCED FOR 15 SEX CHARGES

Apia, SAMOA — “Sexual offending between father’s (step or biological) against their daughters is becoming prevalent. For a country that is professed to be “founded on God,” it’s churches filled every Sunday and whose culture is all about family yet the core values of family is being destroyed by the very people who are supposed to protect and provide safety for their family,” says Samoa’s Supreme Court Justice, Mata Keli Tuatagaloa during sentencing for a man convicted of having a sexual relationship with his 15-year-old stepdaughter last week.

The defendant entered a guilty plea to 15 counts of having sex with a dependent member of his family between 01 October 2015 and 31 December 2015. The victim is the defendant’s stepdaughter.

The penalty under the law is maximum 14 years imprisonment for each count. According to the police summary of facts the offending took place at home and at night when the victim’s mother, who is the defendant’s wife was asleep.

The presentence report says that the stepfather is 26 years’ old and he told probation that he had apologized to his wife’s family, however, the wife is said to have denied any apology by the defendant. Tuatagaloa pointed out that the victim was 15 years old and was a junior high school student. The Supreme Court Justice stated that according to what the defendant stated in the presentence report seemed to be saying that the sexual relationship with the victim was initiated by the victim and that she fully consented to it.

“I don’t for one second believe what he told probation,” said Tuatagaloa. The aggravating features of the offending are that the victim was only 15 years old at the time and there is an 11-year gap between the defendant and victim. The bigger the age gap, the more vulnerable the victim is. The court also pointed out that the victim was living with the defendant and she saw him as a father. “The defendant himself said in the pre-sentence report that he treated the victim as his own daughter.

“He really made a mockery of that with what he did,” the court pointed out saying this was not a one-off offending but multiple offendings within the period of four months where the defendant had sex with the victim 15 times. Tuatagaloa notes that the penalties under the law since 2013 are now harsher than before.

“The reason is no doubt to deter men from committing such sexual offending against women and girls. Despite the increase in penalties, sexual offending is on the rise and especially so within families. The Court would need to be harsher with its sentences to send out a clear and loud message that such behavior is not tolerated or acceptable. Women and girls need to feel safe at home and be free from such abhorrent behavior from men. In saying that, it will be a custodial sentence.”

The defendant was sentenced to serve five years for each of the sex counts however the jail term is to be concurrent.

WOMAN CONVICTED OF BURGLARY SENTENCED TO COMMUNITY SERVICE

Apia, SAMOA — A young woman who was convicted of burglary, in connection with burglarizing a musical school in Vailele has been sentenced by Supreme Court Justice Tafaoimalo Leilani Tuala-Warren. Grace Amituana’i was charged with burglary and stealing. The defendant on the day of jury trial changed her plea from not guilty to guilty. According to the police summary of facts, the defendant on or about November 5, 2015 around 11AM, with her co-defendants made a plan to go to the music school.

It’s alleged that Amituana’i gave the other two co-defendants surgeon gloves to wear to ensure that they did not leave behind fingerprints. Then they walked to the music school. The defendant who was the mastermind behind this matter waited while the other two co-defendants entered the music school and removed items such as six headphones; 2 ukuleles; 2 recorders; 1 flute; 1 clarinet; 2 sustain pedals; 1 multi-plug, 3 wires for adapters and 3 iPod wires and 4 sets of glasses.

According to the police summary of facts the value of the items stolen is $4082 WST. According to the pre-sentence report, the defendant is 19-years-old from Vailele, and is married with no children and stays at home doing family chores. She told probation that she took the ukulele and flute home. In the evening when her husband arrived home from work, he noticed the items and instructed her to return the items. The following day, she returned the items to one of the co-accused. According to Tafaoimalo the offending was premeditated and that it’s also aggravating that the property stolen was valuable and none of the properties were recovered.

Tafaoimalo warned the defendant that this should come as a warning to her and she’s to use this opportunity wisely to sort out her life, concentrate on her young family and think of the effects that her actions have had on the lives of others.

She was sentenced to 80 hours of community work with the victim’s music school for burglary, while for the stealing count; she’s to serve an additional 20 hours of community work with the music school.

FATHER AND SONS CONVICTED IN PROPERTY DAMAGE CASE

Apia, SAMOA — Vaomalo Kini and his two sons Lance and Matuaaileala have been found guilty of one charge of intentional damage of property belonging to Maotaalii Kaioneta after they conducted unauthorized digging on the property. This was following a hearing earlier this month. Handing down sentencing last week was Supreme Court Justice, Mata Tuatagaloa who pointed out that the father is 74-years-old and is a first offender. The defendant holds one of the chiefly oratorial titles from the district of Faleata-i-Sasae. He also is a former Member of Parliament.

In the testimonials provided by his faifeau, Reverend Eletise Suluvale, the pulenuu speaks highly of him as a matai and tuua (Paramount Chief) of Puipaa how he has served the village and district and the EFKS for many years and is an ordained deacon. His son, Lance, 45, is a first time offender and the third defendant, Matuaaileala is 53-year-old. However the third defendant has a previous conviction.

The father informed the court that his two sons are hard workers who provide support and serve their family wholeheartedly, while pleading with the court for leniency in the sentencing of his two sons. Tuatagaloa pointed out that the aggravating features of the offence are the damage to the properties of the complainant, and the lack of consideration by the defendants of the complainant, his family and their property when they excavated the land. “The only mitigating factor in favor regarding two of the three defendants is, they are first time offenders. However the court does not find mitigating factor in favor of the third defendant who has a previous conviction.” 

There has not been a reconciliation of this matter and the court has appealed to the defendants and the complainant in their tofa faa-tamalii as ‘matai’ to maintain peace and harmony between their families. “We are proud people – proud of our own line of heritage in terms of ‘matai’ titles and where we come from. We have to remember that we are one and the same – we are all Samoans. The stability of our country that we have been enjoying is because of the stability of our families and the way our people have been able to resolve any dispute by their wisdom in their tofa faa-tamalii,” said the Supreme Court Justice. She also pointed out that this case does not warrant an imprisonment term.

The prosecution has asked for a conviction and monetary fine to be imposed and the probation services in the pre-sentence report (PSR) also recommends for a monetary fine. Defense asked the court for discharge without conviction be imposed on all three defendants while asking the court to consider the age and health of the defendant who is 74 years old, a first time offender and is not in good health; that he travels to New Zealand a lot for treatment and follow ups. He is also chairman of some government boards.

A conviction would mean that he loses his chairmanship of the boards he sits on and may be detrimental to his ability to travel to New Zealand for his medical checks. Tuatagaloa agreed with the defense submission regarding the elderly father noting that he’s elderly and he’s been a law abiding citizen until this offending. “He suffers from cancer and a conviction on a charge of intentional damage with a maximum 7 years imprisonment term may affect his travels to New Zealand for his medical checks.”

Even with a discharge without conviction the court could still order costs or compensation against the defendant under section 104(6) of the criminal procedure act 1972.

The father’s case was discharged without conviction and he was ordered to pay $200 for court costs;  $100 for prosecution costs; and $800 in compensation to the complainant, Maotaalii Kaioneta. As for the two sons, who the court says played an active role in carrying out of the excavation, Lance and Matuaaileala were both ordered to pay $100 for court costs, $100 for prosecution costs and $600 for restitution and Matuaaileala was placed on probation.

MAN CONVICTED IN SEX CASE

Apia, SAMOA — Fiso Isaia was in court earlier this month for a bench trial on charges of carnal knowledge and indecent assault involving a 13-year-old girl. According to the Police summary of facts, the offense took place on 3 September 2014 at Tanumapua and Aleisa. During the hearing the victim’s mother testified that the victim, was only 13-years-old at the time of the offense and she’s now 15.

Supreme Court Justice Mata Tuatagaloa noted that the only defense advanced by defense counsel is that there was no sexual intercourse and that the victim was lying. “The evidence is that no one else was present but only the defendant and victim when they had sex.”

The summary noted that this is the case with most sexual offending. The summary said the victim’s evidence was that she went with the defendant, Fiso, and had sex with him under the defendant’s togā esi. Despite defense counsel’s persistent statements to the victim that she was lying when she said the defendant had sex with her, the victim never faltered with her response that she had sex with the defendant. She was consistent with her response throughout, she did not deny consenting to the sex nor did she deny she really liked the defendant. Her consent is not a defense because she is under age.

According to Tuatagaloa the defendant on the other hand denied having sex with the victim saying that she, was lying. “Asked why he thinks the victim would lie about him having sex with her, his simple answer was, he does not know. “I find the defendant not a credible witness. He keeps changing his responses and would also play the ‘I don’t remember,’ response.”

She stated when rendering her decision “I find the defendant guilty of having sex with the victim who was under 16-years-old at the time of the offending. The alternative charge of indecent assault is therefore dismissed.” Sentencing for the defendant has been scheduled for Friday, September 23, 2016. .

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