A prominent gospel musician among Samoans here and abroad has been charged in American Samoa for allegedly having a sexual relationship with a male student, who later contracted a sexually transmitted disease.
Elijah Jared Tavai, who is a teacher by profession, made his initial appearance before American Samoa District Court Judge Fiti Sunia this week, Ausage Fausia of Samoa News reported.
The 29-year-old man is a Leone High School (L.H.S) Music teacher who hails from Lepuapua.
Tavai faces one charge of abuse of a child and two misdemeanor charges, including endangering the welfare of a child, and patronising prostitution.
During the Court proceedings, Tavai's lawyer, Marcellus Tala Uiagalelei asked for more time to review the charges against his client.
A status hearing for Tavai is scheduled for Friday at 8:30 a.m.
In the meantime, the defendant has been granted bail and has been ordered to comply with the conditions of release, and specifically with the condition that he refrain from any physical contact with the alleged victim or his family at any time.
Samoa News reports that according to the government’s case, on April 28, 2017, an official from the Department of Education (D.O.E) walked into the Criminal Investigation Division (C.I.D) office, to report a criminal matter that was reported to the D.O.E main office, involving an unknown minor testing positive for a sexually transmitted disease (S.T.D).
The victim’s name was never disclosed by the D.O.E official during the initial conversation with a C.I.D detective. Only the name of the defendant was revealed.
A C.I.D detective then contacted D.O.H for information about this case, but was told via a telephone conversation that the test for the victim was done in March 2017, but due to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (H.I.P.A.A Law) which provides data privacy and security provisions for safeguarding medical information, the information they’re looking for is limited and requires a search warrant, provided that D.P.S can identify the minor in the case.
Court filings state that D.P.S finally identified the minor on Aug. 30th. The following day, police officers interviewed the main witness in the case, a teacher from Leone High School. The witness told police that it was sometime during the first week of February that the minor asked him a question about S.T.Ds.
The minor allegedly told the witness that he was experiencing symptoms associated with S.T.Ds.
The witness told the minor he needed to see a doctor and get tested and according to the witness, the minor was adamant about not letting his parents know, and asked the witness if he could take him.
The witness and the minor's older brother escorted the minor to get tested.
During the hospital visit, the doctor asked the minor how he contracted the S.T.D and the minor said he got is from his girlfriend, who attends a private school. Testing was conducted and during a follow-up visit a few days later, the minor was treated with a shot and pills.
According to court documents, the minor confessed to the witness that he lied to the doctor about who his sexual partner was, because he was too ashamed to admit that it was a "mala" (fa'afafine or transgender).
The witness told police that a week later, he approached Tavai at the school and asked to speak to him. The meeting was held inside the senior counselor’s office. During the meeting, the witness asked Tavai if there was something he wanted to tell him.
According to the witness, Tavai didn't make any excuses and allegedly admitted and confessed that he had sexually assaulted a male student by performing oral sex on him.
Tavai allegedly told the witness that after “a moment of performing" oral sex on the student in his truck, the minor felt that it was wrong and stopped.
Police officers interviewed the minor’s older brother on Sept. 6 and according to him, his younger brother told him that it was Tavai who gave him an S.T.D.
According the minor's statement to police, Tavai was his teacher at Leone HS.
He said Tavai kept messaging him on Facebook saying “hey” but he didn’t reply. He stated that Tavai again messaged him saying “hey” and this time, he replied back “hey”.
Tavai then replied saying, he was heading to one of the fast food restaurants; and the minor responded that he wanted some food from there. Tavai messaged back: “What do I get in return?”. The minor asked the defendant, “What do you mean?” Tavai replied, “I want some naked photos and will give you a large amount of money.”
The minor said he didn't reply back to Tavai. The following week, during class, the minor told police that Tavai would look at him (stare) or do something in class to get his attention. The minor said he felt weird and uncomfortable, and when he went home after school, he saw a Facebook message from Tavai asking if he could perform oral sex on him for money.
The next day, the minor planned to go swimming with his friends in Fogagogo. He said while he was waiting for a ride near Futiga, he observed Tavai’s truck heading east and upon seeing him, Tavai stopped his truck.
The minor said that's when he asked Tavai if he could drop him off in Fogagogo and Tavai said ok. According to the minor, when he got inside the truck, Tavai started talking and asked if he could perform oral sex on him for $350, and he agreed.
Tavai allegedly turned his truck around, headed back to Puapua, and parked in front of his (Tavai’s) house. He then lifted up the armrest located between the driver and passenger seats, pulled down the minor’s pants and performed oral sex on him.
The minor told police officers he felt weird and uncomfortable and after maybe 3 to 5 minutes, he did not feel good and told Tavai to stop.
Tavai then dropped him off in Fogagogo and gave him $20 saying he will give him the rest of the money at school.
The minor told police officers it was a week later that he started to feel pain in his private parts and he said he knows for sure he got the S.T.D from Tavai, because he had never had sexual intercourse with anyone prior to the incident, and this was the first time he had experienced any sexual contact with any person.