Co-defendant in Taputimu sexual assault case will serve 28 months at TCF
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Associate Justice Fiti Sunia told a man who pled guilty to sexually assaulting two 14-year-old girls last year, that his actions were not only ugly, but also unacceptable in American Samoa.
“Drugs such as meth, to be followed by sex acts are the types of things that we hear, watch, and read about from other places around the world; but now, some people have decided to bring these ‘news’ things into American Samoa. So now, not only do they bring into our land, ice, but also the type of behavior that follows meth.”
These were Sunia’s comments during the sentencing of Loma Iosia, one of the three defendants convicted of sexual assaulting two14-year-old girls last October.
Iosia appeared in High Court yesterday morning for sentencing.
Prosecuting the case was Assistant Attorney General Christy Dunn, while Assistant Public Defender Rob McNeill represented Iosia, who has been in custody since his arrest last year, unable to post a $100,000 surety bond.
The government charged Iosia in two separate cases.
In the first case, Iosia 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.
In the second case, he was charged with one count of unlawful possession of methamphetamine with the intent to distribute, a felony.
But under a plea agreement with the government, accepted by the court last month, Iosia pled guilty to the amended count of sexual assault in the first case, a class C felony, carrying a prison sentence of up to 7 years, a fine of up to $5,000 or both; and the amended count of unlawful possession of meth in the second case, a class D felony, punishable by imprisonment of up to 5 years, a fine of up to $5,000 or both.
With his guilty plea, Iosia admits that on Oct. 8, 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, Iosia apologized, saying he’s truly remorseful and he takes full responsibility for his actions. He asked for a second chance to return home to care for his family, and also to serve his church and village.
He apologized to the victims and their families and begged them to forgive him.
Iosia’s aunty who took the witness stand told the court that Iosia is a loving young man whom his parents always relied on to run their family business.
Raising Iosia from birth until he graduated high school, Iosia’s aunty said Iosia is their family’s right hand man. Not only did he look after the family business when his parents traveled off island, but he also transported his elderly grandma to the hospital for her medical check-ups every week.
McNeill told the court that Iosia is truly remorseful and wants to return home to help his parents with their funeral business in Nu’uuli.
He said his client committed a serious crime — not only did he sexually assault a 14-year-old, but he also gave her drugs. He asked the court to sentence Iosia to probation, under the condition that he undergo drug counseling.
If a period of incarceration is ordered, McNeill reminded the court to consider that his client has been in custody for over 10 months.
Prosecutor Dunn echoed McNeill’s submission for a probated sentence, saying Iosia shall register as a sex offender, and undergo HIV testing as required by law.
She told the court that one victim is now residing off island while the other still lives in the territory with her family.
Sunia wanted to know from the prosecutor whether the victim’s parents were aware of the plea agreement with Iosia.
Dunn said she spoke to the parents regarding the plea agreement and they agreed with the terms. She added that the parents didn’t want the two victims to be involved in the case anymore.
In delivering his decision, Sunia noted there is evidence to prove that there is failure all around — in law enforcement, families, supporters, and so on.
“It’s an unspeakable type of crime,” and the consequences will not only affect the lives of our people; but also, everyone including families, businesses, villages, and the whole community, Sunia said.
The most severe consequences of these actions, according to Sunia, is that, it’s now affecting our young children, especially the two young females who were exposed to illegal drugs and forcibly engaged in sexual activity.
Sunia told Iosia that they are not persuaded with his plea or his statements.
The only factor that entitles him to a probated sentence is the clear error of the government and everyone. The government is unable to stop drugs from coming into American Samoa.
On the other hand, Sunia continued, Immigration failed on their part, in dealing with people who are coming into American Samoa, like the co-defendant in this case who was ordered by the court to depart the territory as a condition of his 7-year probation.
Moreover, Sunia said that even parents have failed on their part.
Sunia, flanked by Chief Associate Judge Mamea Sala Jr, and Associate Judge Tunupopo Faleafaga Tunpopo, sentenced Iosia to 7 years detention for sexual assault. Execution of the sentence is suspended and he is placed on probation for 5 years subject to several conditions.
He is to serve 28 months at the Territorial Correctional Facility (TCF), credited the 10 1/2 months he has already served in pretrial confinement. He also is to register as a sex offender, undergo HIV testing as required by law, and pay a $1,000 fine.
For unlawful possession of meth, Iosia was sentenced to 5 years detention. Execution of the sentence is suspended and he is placed on probation for 5 years subject to several conditions.
He is to serve 20 months at the TCF, credited the 10 1/2 months he’s already served.
He’s ordered to remain alcohol and drug free, and pay a $1,000 fine.
Detention periods and fines will run concurrently, meaning Iosia will only serve 28 months at the TCF and pay a $1,000 fine.