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Man sentenced for sexual abuse of 15-yr-old neighbor — once again the devil is blamed

American Samoa High Court building

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — A man, 42, convicted of sexually abusing a girl, 15, has been ordered by the High Court to serve 20 months at the TCF as a condition of his 5-year probation.

Lafaele Ulugia Jr has been in custody since his arrest early last year, unable to post a $10,000 surety bond. He was initially charged with two counts of first degree sexual abuse, a class D felony; and endangering the welfare of a child, a class D misdemeanor. But under a plea agreement with the government, he pled guilty to one count of first degree sexual abuse, punishable by up to 5 years in jail, a fine of up to $5,000 or both.

Ulugia Jr admits that on Oct. 28, 2018 he sexually abused a 15-year-old girl by touching her in a sexual manner twice: in his room and in his car — on the same date.

He apologized to the court and begged for a second chance to return home to care for his family. He blamed the devil, saying the devil pushed him to consume alcohol on the day of the incident. He also apologized to the victim and her family.

Defense attorney Ryan Anderson pointed out that his client has already served 15 months at the TCF. He then asked for probation without any additional period of detention, because Ulugia Jr is truly remorseful and he takes full responsibility for what happened.

Anderson added that his client was a good man who supported his family and friends, but everything changed when alcohol entered his life. “Give him another chance to prove to the court that he can change his life and become a good member of the community,” he said.

Prosecutor Laura Garvey echoed the defense submission for a probated sentence, but asked for jail time, saying a message needs to be sent to the community, that the court will not take these types of actions lightly.

She also recommended counseling, and for Ulugia Jr to register as a sex offender.

A recap of facts by the court points out that it was a woman who contacted police regarding the possible sexual abuse of a 15-year-old girl. Police responded and met with the caller, and the victim and her mother. Ulugia Jr was the victim’s neighbor, and he was in his rental unit when police arrived.

The girl's mom told police she was informed of the situation but added that this wasn't the first incident involving her family and Ulugia Jr. She claimed that a year prior, Ulugia Jr also sexually abused her older daughter, who was 16 at the time, but it was not reported, because both parties settled the matter privately.

The victim told investigators that Ulugia Jr sexually assaulted her in his room in the morning. Ulugia Jr was drinking in his house that morning and later that same date, he took the victim in his vehicle and sexually assaulted her.

Ulugia Jr denied that the victim came to his room, telling police he never saw the girl at his house, and the only people who came by were his nephews: one came to drop off food in the morning, and the other stopped by in the evening to hang out.

The court sentenced Ulugia Jr to 5 years imprisonment and a fine of $5,000. Execution of sentence is suspended, and he is placed on probation for 5 years subject to several conditions. He has to serve 20 months in jail and upon release, he is to depart the territory and remain outside of its borders for the duration of probation. This condition is stayed until further order of the court.

By statute, Ulugia Jr has to undergo HIV testing and register as a sex offender. He is not to make any direct or indirect contact with the victim and her family, and he may not rent in Tafuna where the victim and her family reside. He has to find someplace else to stay and remain alcohol and drug free.

Anderson informed the court that the victim and her family are no longer living in Tafuna and asked if Ulugia Jr can return to his rental unit there. The court said no, as Probation has different information regarding the victim and her family and Ulugia Jr is to comply with the court’s order.

If he fails to comply with conditions of probation, the court has two options for Ulugia Jr: Put him on the boat or plane and send him back to Samoa; or serve the balance of his probation and pay the $5,000 fine. “So keep that in mind; one glass of beer can send you back to Samoa or to jail for 5 years,” the court warned.