Man, 45, sentenced for sexually abusing girlfriend’s 11-yr-old daughter
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — A 45-year-old man from Samoa was sentenced yesterday morning for sexually abusing his girlfriend’s 11-year-old daughter.
(To protect the identity of the victim, Samoa News is withholding the names of all parties involved. It should be noted that the court affidavit provides the man’s name, but the victim is referred to only by her initials).
The man, who has been in custody since his arrest, unable to post a $75,000 surety bond, appeared before Chief Justice Michael Kruse yesterday morning for sentencing. He was initially charged with multiple felonies, including sodomy, attempted rape, and first degree sexual abuse, as well as the misdemeanor charge of endangering the welfare of a child.
But under a plea agreement with the government, the defendant pled guilty to the amended count of first degree sexual abuse, a class C felony, punishable by not more than 7 years, a fine of not more than $5,000, or both.
The defendant admits that around September 2018, he sexually abused his stepdaughter by touching her private parts. He further admits that he hit the girl with an extension cord twice and threw a phone at her.
When given the chance to speak, the defendant apologized and begged the court for a second chance so he can return to his family in Samoa and care for his elderly parents who depend on him financially. He never apologized to the victim or her family.
Defense attorney Rob McNeill asked the court for a probated sentence without any additional period of detention. He pointed out that his client has already served 15 months at the TCF and reminded the court that - as part of the agreement with the government - both parties agreed for the defendant to depart the territory during probation.
McNeill said that based on information his office has received, the victim is in Samoa and will be returning to the territory once the measles outbreak is clear. The victim’s mother, who was the defendant’s girlfriend for many years, wants the defendant to leave the territory and never come back.
Prosecutor Laura Garvey echoed McNeill’s submission for a probated sentence, including the condition that the defendant depart the territory immediately. Before sentence was handed down, the court offered a recap of the facts of the case.
The matter was reported to police on Oct. 25, 2018 by the secretary of Le’atele Elementary School in Fagasa. The caller told police that the victim was seen at her neighbor’s home the month prior and when she inquired about it, the girl said she ran away from home because she was scared of her stepfather. (Samoa News points out that the man was the victim’s mother’s boyfriend. The two were never married. The girl told police her biological father passed away)
The victim told the school secretary that her stepfather would hit her with an extension cord, threaten her, and force her to do adult stuff. The victim ended up staying with her mother’s sister in Fagasa.
According to the victim, the first alleged incident occurred in Sept. 2018 when she was sleeping next to her stepfather. She said he touched her private parts through her clothing, and she was afraid and was threatened by him not to tell anyone or he would beat her with a wire or extension cord.
The second alleged incident happened around midnight, after the defendant watched an X-rated movie. The victim said he threatened and forced her to take off her shorts, before he performed sex acts on her. The victim said she cried because it hurt.
The victim said she told her mom and her mom told her to leave it to her, that she would talk to her husband. The victim said she became very afraid and that’s why she ran away from home.
It was the victim’s teacher who noticed a change in the girl’s behavior and advised her to be positive, be strong, and to write a journal of what she alleges happened to her. The victim’s journal was seized and in it, she talks about not being loved and how her stepfather and her mother are not her real parents. She further wrote that the defendant is a bad person, and mentioned her experience with what he had done to her, including how her stomach and her back hurt.
The victim’s journal entries also include an incident whereby her stepfather sexually abused her after watching a sex movie, and about one night when he tried to rape her but she cried, saying it hurt. She noted that her mother was sleeping while her stepfather tried to rape her.
The defendant was sentenced to 7 years imprisonment. Execution of 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, credited 15 months for time served.
Upon release from custody, he is to depart the territory and remain outside of its borders for the duration of probation. While in custody, he is not eligible for trustee status. A copy of the court’s judgement is to be served upon the Chief Immigration Officer (CIO) to ensure the defendant’s name in on the lookout list.