$20,000 bond set in sex abuse case of minor girl — who was “like family”
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Police arrested a 53-year-old man last month, for the alleged sexual abuse of a 16-year-old girl. The government claims that the defendant, Vasega Faalata, forcibly kept the victim inside his house for over an hour while he sexually abused her.
Faalata, who has a previous conviction for a similar offense made his initial appearance in District Court last month. He is charged with two courts of first degree sexual abuse; one count of attempted rape and one count of false imprisonment, all felonies; along with two counts of endangering the welfare of a child, a class A misdemeanor.
Bond is set at $20,000 and a preliminary examination is next week. The court has denied a defense motion to reduce bond to $5,000.
Defense argued that the charges against Faalata are just allegations until proven beyond a reasonable doubt, however, the prosecutor strongly opposed a bail reduction saying that Faalata was convicted by the court ten yeas ago for having a sexual relationship with a minor while he was still married.
The government asked the court to deny the motion and the court agreed.
If he is able to post bond, among other conditions, Faalata is not to make any direct or indirect contact with the victim, and he is not to leave or attempt to leave the territory while his case is pending.
(As an alleged repeat offender, Samoa News has decided to publish the defendant’s name, but not that of the victim.)
The matter was reported to authorities by the victim’s aunt on Feb. 24th, 2021. Police who responded spoke to the caller, and the alleged victim and her mother. According to the government, Faalata is a friend of the victim’s parents, and they have known each other for over 10 years.
All this time, the victim’s parents treated Faalata as one of their own family. They shared everything they have in life — including food, money and even sometimes, Faalata came and stayed with the victim’s family on several occasions whenever he felt bored at his house, which was one block away from the victim’s house.
Faalata was not home when police arrived in the area in response to the call. A woman that lives next door to Faalata told investigators that he took off when he saw police units heading towards the victim’s home. She tried to stop him and asked what happened, but Faalata continued to run around to the side of his house and disappeared.
Investigators transported the victim, her mother and aunt to the Tafuna Police Substation (TPS) for further investigation, while other police officers patrolled the area looking for Faalata.
The victim’s mother and aunty were placed in separate rooms for questioning. The victim was interviewed in the presence of her mother.
According to the victim’s statement of the incident, Faalata came to their house and asked for her father. She told Faalata her father was in Manu’a and he would be there for two weeks. That’s when Faalata told the victim that there was food from a wedding at his house that he needs to bring over to their house (victim’s house), but he wanted someone to help him bring it over.The victim told Faalata that she would give him a hand.
When she got to Faalata’s house, he told the victim to wait outside while he got the plate of food for her. As Faalata walked to his kitchen, he suddenly stumbled and fell on the cement floor, hitting his head on the side of a chair.
According to the victim, the moment she saw Faalata fall down, she screamed and quickly ran inside the house to help him, thinking that Faalata was unconscious because he was not moving at all.
When Faalata regained consciousness he tried to stand up. The victim helped him to get up and she told Faalata to lean on her shoulder as she tried to walk him to his bed in his room to rest. However, when they got into the defendant’s room, he asked her to stay with him for a few moments and watch a movie while he tries to get over his headache.
The victim told investigators that she didn’t think anything of it because Faalata is like a father to her and her siblings.
After a while, Faalata was able to walk properly and told the victim to wait at the house while he goes to the store to get some sodas for everyone. Faalata then left for the store and when he returned, he had two packs of cigarettes, sodas, 4 cans of beer, as well as snacks.
He told the victim to come to the living room to watch TV while he sets up everything before they go to take the food and sodas to her house.
The victim told investigators that she shocked at what happened next — while she was sitting on the couch watching TV, Faalata came in and sat on the couch next her and allegedly touched her chest inappropriate.
He then asked her to lock the front door, because he didn’t want the neighborhood kids to come by begging for snacks. The victim said she did as she was told.
Afterwards, according to the victim, she returned to the couch and that’s when Faalata gave her $20 and snacks. He then asked her to move closer to him, which made her uncomfortable and she told Faalata that she was leaving, because she was not comfortable with his actions.
According to the government, that’s when Faalata grabbed the victim by the arm and started touching and rubbing her inappropriately — over her clothing. He then tried to remove her clothes in an attempt to have sex with her, but the victim fought back and pushed Faalata away from her, telling him to stop being stupid before she calls the police.
The victim said she tried to escape because she could smell alcohol but Faalata asked her to calm down because nothing bad was going to happen to her and everything would be fine. However, the victim said she knew something was weird with Faalata, by the way he was acting.
She tried to get out of the house but Faalata stopped her saying that she would not leave the house until he said so. According to the victim, she spent over an hour sitting in Faalata’s house. She wanted to go home but Faalata stopped her.
The victim told police she pushed Faalata away, causing him to fall off the couch, but he stood up and continue touching her in a sexual manner. The victim pushed Faalata away from her a third time, causing him to fall off the couch again and this time he was unable to stand because he was drunk.
That’s when the victim stood up and walked out of Faalata’s house and went straight to her house.
In the affidavit, police noted that the victim was confident throughout the interview process. But when she mentioned the inappropriate touching, she began to tear up.
When questioned by police, the victim’s mother said she was aware of the situation after her daughter told her everything and she waited for her elder sister (victim’s aunt) to come home so that she could explain the incident to her. The victim’s mother further stated to investigators that they’re living on her sister’s husband’s land and she wanted to get advice from her sister before she reported the matter to the police.
According to the mother, this is not the first incident in her family involving Faalata. She said there was an incident that occurred last year prior to this incident involving him and her other daughter, who is now 14 years old — but it was not reported because both parties agreed to settle it.
When asked about the alleged first incident, the victim’s mother didn’t specify the date but said it happened at night. She said she heard her daughter screaming from the back of the house for help. And when she went to check, she saw Faalata holding her daughter’s left hand, trying to pull her into his vehicle. She said Faalata only released her daughter’s hand when she yelled at him to stop.
Police were looking for Faalata in the area but he was nowhere to be found, however, last month, he was seen by the victim’s mother riding on a aiga bus heading to the Fagatogo market.
The victim’s mother contacted police and Faalata was finally arrested.
When questioned by police, Faalata said he didn’t see the 16-year-old victim at his home all that day. He said the only people who came over to his house were the neighborhood kids who stopped by to borrow movies.
He denied any wrongdoing to the investigators — telling them that he would never do such thing to this couple and their children, because he treated them as his own family and blood.