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Defendant in sex abuse case involving 15-year-old will be sentenced this month

American Samoa High Court building

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — A man accused of sexual abusing a 15-year-old girl is remanded back to custody to await sentencing, after he admitted to the allegations against him via a signed plea agreement with the government.

Oneone Tuala, who has been in custody since his arrest, unable to post a $35,000 surety bond, appeared in court yesterday morning for a Change of Plea. Prosecuting the case is Assistant Attorney General Laura Garvey while Assistant Public Defender Rob McNeill is representing the defendant.

Tuala, 25, was initially charged with one count of child molestation; one count of sodomy; and count count of first degree sexual abuse - all felonies. But under a signed plea agreement with the government, accepted by the court, Tuala pled guilty to first degree sexual abuse, a class D felony, punishable by imprisonment of up to 5 years, a fine of up to $5,000, or both.

Tuala admits that on Apr. 25, 2018 he touched the private parts of a 15-year-old girl without her consent. He further admits that on the day of the incident, he entered the victim’s home and found her sleeping on the couch in the living room. He walked over to where she was and touched her in a sexual manner.

When interviewed by police, Tuala said it was the victim who invited him over to her home on the night in question; however, when police questioned the victim, she denied that claim.

The victim told police that one month prior to the incident, the defendant approached her and asked if they could be friends. The victim said no, and told Tuala to stop asking her.

The victim told police that one week before the incident, someone came to their house late at night and tried to open the windows to her room. When she stood up to check, the person already left; but she felt that the culprit looked like the defendant.

Tuala will be sentenced Jan. 29, 2020.