Co-defendant in Taputimu sex case sentenced in ‘unspeakable’ crime
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — “American Samoa is not a place where you rape and run. Our laws are… to protect our community and our young children, and when you violate the safety of the members of this community protected by these laws, you have to pay.”
This was the message from Associate Justice Fiti A. Sunia during the sentencing of a man from Samoa, convicted of sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl in October of last year.
Apisaloma Timu, one of three men arrested for sexually assaulting two 14-year-old girls appeared in High Court yesterday morning for sentencing.
Prosecuting the case was Assistant Attorney General Christy Dunn, while Assistant Public Defender Rob McNeill represented Timu, who has been in custody since his arrest last year, unable to post a $100,000 surety bond.
Timu was initially charged with rape, sodomy, and first degree sexual abuse, all felonies, and one count of endangering the welfare of a child, a class A misdemeanor.
Under a plea agreement with the government, accepted by the court last month, Timu pled guilty to the amended count of sexual assault, a class C felony, punishable by imprisonment of up to 7 years, a fine of up to $5,000 or both.
With his guilty plea, Timu admits that on Oct. 6, 2018 he sexually assaulted a 14-year-old female in Taputimu. He further admits that he smoked meth with the victim before and after he sexually assaulted her.
When given the chance to speak, Timu apologized to the court and the people of American Samoa, saying he’s truly remorseful for what he did and he takes full responsibility for his actions. He asked for a second chance to return home and seek employment to care for his family and be a useful to his parents.
He never apologized to the victim.
McNeill told the court that Timu is truly remorseful and wants to return to Samoa to be with his family.
The defense attorney said his client committed a serious crime — not only did he sexually assault a 14-year-old, but also gave her drugs. He then asked the court to sentence Timu to probation, with the condition that he depart the territory and remain outside of its borders for the duration of probation.
If a period of incarceration is ordered, McNeill reminded the court that his client has been in custody for 9 months.
Prosecutor Dunn echoed McNeill’s submission for a probated sentence, saying the only option the court has for Timu is to order him to depart the territory, so he does not have any more access to young people in the community.
Dunn make it clear that members of the community don’t need this type of person hanging around their young children.
Before rendering sentence, Sunia said Timu was initially charged with 3 serious offenses: rape, sodomy, and first degree sexual abuse. But an agreement with the government resulted in him being convicted of the amended charge of sexual assault.
Sunia said Timu’s plea was a result of negotiations with the government, which was carefully reviewed by the court.
The underlying facts of the case are very serious, and according to Sunia, the court will not revisit those facts because of the understanding that these are not the types of behavior that are welcomed in the community.
He said there is evidence to prove that there is failure all around in law enforcement, in families, supporters, and so on. According to Sunia, “it’s an unspeakable type of crime.” Thinking about these type of actions — a 14-year-old female who is walking on the road is raped and later offered meth — are unbelievable, Sunia continued.
“It’s difficult to find these types of crime around our community, compared to what is happening in other places around the world,” Sunia said, adding that this is not the first time the court has been asked to send a defendant back home after a serious crime has been committed.
“Asking us to return home after coming here and violating our laws and then running away is not right,” said Sunia.
According to the Associate Justice, there is only one fact the court considered, which led them to agree that deportation is the only option in this case. That is, that taxpayers will pay for housing the defendant while serving his sentence at the Territorial Correctional Facility (TCF).
Timu was sentenced to 7 years detention. Execution of the sentence is suspended and he is placed on probation for 7 years subject to several conditions.
He is to serve 28 months at the TCF and upon release, Timu is to immediately depart the territory and remain outside of its borders for the duration of probation. He has to register as a sex offender, and undergo HIV testing as required by law.
Sunia emphasized to the defense attorney that if for some reason his client is unable to make travel arrangements, upon serving his detention, he is to remain at the TCF until he can travel.
Chief Associate Judge Mamea Sala Jr and Associate Judge Tunupopo Alalafaga Tunupopo assisted Sunia on the bench.
Timu and co-defendants Loma Iosia and Nick Mataia were arrested and charged after a woman contacted police to report a case involving two young girls and drugs.
A woman told police that she and her husband discovered a plastic baggie containing a white substance in their daughter’s pants and they suspected it to be ice (meth).
The woman’s two 14-year-old daughters are the victims in this case, identified in the court affidavit as T.T and V.M.
T.T told police that she smoked meth with Timu and Mataia and the two men sexually assaulted her.
V.M. told police that Timu took her into his room at a residence in Taputimu where he raped her. She said she pushed him but he was too strong and she couldn’t stop him.
After she was raped by Timu, V.M said she walked to the door, but Timu stopped her.
He gave her $50 and told her that if she tells anyone about what happened to them, they will find her. V.M. said she walked out and got home before 10:30p.m. on the night in question.