Man claims sex relations with 13-year old stepdaughter was consensual
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — A 30-year-old man convicted of sexually assaulting his 13-year-old stepdaughter over a period of 4 months will serve 7 years at the Territorial Correctional Facility (TCF).
[In the interest of protecting the minor victim, Samoa News is withholding the name of all parties involved].
The stepfather, who has been in custody unable to post a $200,000 surety bond, appeared in High Court yesterday morning for sentencing. Prosecuting was Assistant Attorney General Laura Garvey, while Assistant Public Defender Rob McNeill represented the defendant, who was initially facing 27 charges, including 5 counts of rape; one count of sodomy; 10 counts of first degree sexual abuse; 5 counts of incest; and 6 counts of endangering the welfare of a child.
But under a plea agreement with the government, accepted by the court, he 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; and first degree sexual abuse, a class D felony, punishable by up to 5 years in jail, a fine of up to $5,000 or both.
The defendant admits that between June and September 2018, he sexually assaulted his 13-year-old stepdaughter inside their home. He claims they had a consensual sexual relationship that lasted about four months.
When given the chance to speak, the defendant apologized and said he’s truly remorseful for what happened; adding that he wants to return home so he can find a job to care for his wife and children.
He never offered an apology to the victim, whose mother — the defendant’s wife —was present in court during sentencing. McNeill requested probation, saying that despite the seriousness of the crime, his client deserves a second chance to return home. He went on to say that the defendant’s wife and daughter (the victim) want him to return home and reunite with the family.
Prosecutor Garvey asked for a period of detention, saying the defendant committed a serious offense that will affect the future of the young victim. Garvey said the sentence will send a strong message to the community that the court will not tolerate this type of behavior.
A recap of the facts of the case was made before sentencing was handed down.
According to the court, the defendant engaged in a sexual relationship with his 13-year-old stepdaughter, and his actions were severe and unspeakable. With regards to the defense’s claim that the victim and her mother have agreed to allow the defendant to return home, Associate Justice Fiti Sunia said the court is not persuaded. In fact, the court believes the defendant is a danger to the family and he needs to stay away from the victim.
Committing sexual acts against minor children is one of the more serious offenses in American Samoa, the court noted, saying it will do everything in its authority to make sure anyone who commits these crimes be held accountable for their actions.
After reviewing the Pre Sentence Report (PSR) including the defendant’s history, the court said it was unsure why the government didn’t initially charge him with Domestic Violence which is a more serious offense, a class B felony, that carries a longer jail term.
The defendant was sentenced to 7 years imprisonment and a $2,000 fine for sexual assault; and 5 years and a $2,000 fine for first degree sexual abuse. The sentences are to run concurrently, meaning he will serve 7 years behind bars.
The court ordered that the defendant’s sponsor is responsible for paying the $2,000 fine within 6 months. Chief Associate Judge Mamea Sala Jr and Associate Judge Tunupopo Alalafaga assisted Sunia on the bench.
The matter came to light after police were notified on Nov. 26, 2018 about the defendant assaulting his wife and her daughter (the victim) inside their home. The defendant reportedly punched his wife in the face multiple times, and then threatened to kill her if she called the cops. The defendant also pushed his stepdaughter to the ground before punching her in the face and kicking her in the back.
After the beating, the defendant took his wife's cell phone and left the house, and reminded her that he would kill her if she contacted the authorities.
The defendant’s wife told police that aside from assaulting her, her husband also assaulted her now 14-year-old daughter and engaged in a sexual relationship with her. She said the sexual relations between her husband and her daughter started in the beginning of 2018 and she confronted her husband several times about it, telling him to stop what he was doing but he kept insisting that nothing was going on.
The wife called a family meeting with her husband and her daughter after the girl told her about her stepdad's behavior towards her. During the meeting, the defendant admitted to having a sexual relationship with his stepdaughter and he asked his wife to forgive him, telling her he will not do it again.
According to the victim, it was April last year that her stepdad touched her breast and her private parts numerous times. He also kissed her and told her that he wanted to make love to her. She said she told her stepdad that she didn't know what that meant and he told her she had nothing to worry about, that he would teach her.
In May of last year, according to the victim, her stepdad continued to touch her sexually and this time, he demonstrated to her how to perform sexual acts. The following month, it was the same routine but it escalated to her and her stepdad having sexual intercourse for the first time. The girl said she didn't want to do it, but her stepdad pushed himself on to her and eventually raped her.
According to the girl, her stepdad continued to come on to her and they had sex every other day, every week, from June until September. When confronted by police, the defendant admitted to having a sexual relationship with his stepdaughter, who was then 13, saying it was consensual.