Sex offender sentenced to leave the territory after serving 28 months
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — A 39-year-old man from Samoa convicted of sexually abusing a 16-year-old girl was ordered by the court to immediately depart the territory and remain outside of its borders for the duration of his 7-year-probation, after serving a period of detention of 28 months.
Assistant Attorney General Doug Lowe prosecuted the case while Assistant Public Defender Rob McNeill represented Fiailoa Amani, who has been in custody since he was arrested by police in September of 2018, unable to post his $25,000 surety bond.
Amani, who appeared in High Court last week for sentencing, was initially charged with two counts of 1st degree sexual abuse, a class D felony; two counts of sodomy, a class C felony; and 2 class A misdemeanors: 3rd degree assault and endangering the welfare of a child.
However under a plea agreement with the government, accepted by the court, Amani agreed to plead guilty to the class C felony charge of sodomy, which carries an imprisonment sentence of up to 7 years, a fine of up to $5,000 or both. Other charges were dropped.
Before the court rendered its decision, Amani was given the opportunity to address the court.
In his own words, Amani told the court that he was ashamed for what he did to the young girl whom he considered a daughter or a sister to him. He then apologized to the court, the government and people of American Samoa, especially to his wife and four young children for his actions.
(Amani did not apologize to the victim or her family.)
He told the court that what he did was a true sign of betrayal of the faith the victim’s parents had given him. He told the court that while he was in prison, he used this time wisely by working closely with some church groups and organizations to help and develop programs that will save lives of many young people of American Samoa who have suffered with many problems in life, especially mental problems.
“Your honor, I ask for your forgiveness and a second chance so that I can go back to Samoa to care for my family, especially my wife and children that are very dear to me. I know that I broke the law and I promise that I will never set foot in this courtroom again in my life. I will be a changed person after I am released from the TCF. I want to use the rest of my life to do good things for God and for my family,” Amani said.
Defense attorney McNeill told the court Amani has accepted his responsibility for what he did, and he has served over 17 months at the TCF while awaiting the outcome of his case. The defense said that his client learned his lesson from what he did to this young girl.
McNeill asked the court for a probated sentence, which would include no additional period of detention. He told the court that Amani had served 428 days in the TCF; and asked the court to allow his client to depart the territory and go back to Samoa to be with his wife and children.
Prosecutor Lowe echoed the defense’s submission, saying that despite the seriousness of the defendant’s action, the government believes that departing the territory and remaining outside of its borders is the only way that can prevent the defendant from any physical contact with the victim in this case.
Lowe told the court that people like this defendant should now be allowed back into American Samoa.
Amani was sentenced to 7 years imprisonment. Execution of sentence was suspended, and he is placed on probation for 7 years subject to several conditions: He has to serve a period of detention of 28 months at the TCF, with credit for the 17 months he has already served while awaiting the outcome of his case; and, upon release from TCF, he shall immediately depart the territory and remain outside its borders for the duration of his probation.
The court reminded Amani that if he re-enters the territory before his probation period expires, the court will order him to serve the remaining balance of his probation, and then shall immediately depart the territory.
By statute, the defendant was ordered to register as a sex offender and submit himself for HIV testing. He is also ordered not to make any contact with the victim or her family.
According to the court, the government claims that it was on Sept. 28, 2018 in the morning when the sister of the alleged young victim called the Leone Police Station and asked for police assistance, stating that her 16-year old sister had been sexually abused by man, who is a member of their church.
Both the victim and her sister were then transported to the Tafuna Police Station for further investigation. The victim was interviewed by police officers in the presence of her sister, along with their aunt. The victim’s parents were unaware of the situation because they were both off island during the time of the incident.
According to the victim’s statement to police, she was asleep the previous evening but she was suddenly awakened when she felt someone touching her in a sexually manner.
When she woke up, she saw the defendant kneeling next to her head, touching her head and her body. The defendant whispered to her to be quiet and don’t make any noise. The defendant also whispered to the victim that he will give her $100 if she does not scream. The defendant further told the victim that he wanted to spend some time with her.
The victim did not waste a moment, and screamed and yelled out to her sister and aunt who were sleeping inside the other room. The defendant then stood up quickly and ran outside, started his pickup vehicle, which was parked in front of the victim’s house, and left the premises (the compound).
The victim told investigators that this was not the first time Amani had done this type of sexual things to her. She recounted several instances over a period of time when Amani touched her inappropriately — once in front of her house, another while she sleeping in her bed late at night, and another incident that happened at the church during a church meeting when the defendant came to her while she was sleeping inside their family vehicle, and touched her private parts.
The government claims that there were times when the defendant confronted the victim and gave her money to buy her food and drinks. The victim did not accept the money from the defendant.