Salepoua’e Saleimoa has been found guilty of one count of sexual violation involving a disabled woman, following a bench trial presided over by Justice Vui Clarence Nelson last week.
Saleimoa was represented by Iuni Sapolu while prosecuting was Leone Su’a-Mailo of the Attorney General’s office. The defendant was criminally charged on the 21 July, 2016 regarding allegations that he had committed sexual violation by way of sexual connection.
Initially, a panel of assessors was accordingly convened for a trial but as the proceedings progressed, the prosecution was unable to offer evidence to establish penetration, an essential ingredient of the charge.
Su’a-Mailo motioned the court to reduce the charge to sexual violation which was the final charge.
In his ruling issued on Thursday, Justice Vui noted the complainant has been diagnosed by Dr. Tuitama, the Registrar of the Mental Health Unit at the Tupua Tamasese Meaole Hospital as having a “marked intellectual disability” and at trial, she was unable to testify or even speak. She is also physically disabled and confined to a wheelchair.
“The evidence I heard indicated she suffered seizures after the matter before the court, and was admitted to hospital twice for suspected meningitis.
“Her current physical and mental condition is quite poor but I am satisfied she was not in that state in July 2016 when the sexual assault is alleged to have occurred.”
Justice Vui pointed out from the victim’s sister’s testimony the victim had a very limited education and was unable to read and write but could carry out her chores. Justice Vui further noted “due to her condition she was therefore of not much assistance in relation to the allegations facing the defendant.
“The alleged sexual assault however was said to have been witnessed by T, (the nephew of victim) who became the primary witness for the prosecution,” stated Justice Vui.
“He said that on the day in question, he went to the store with the complainant and he was at the time “fafa” or carrying a younger sibling on his back.
“He spoke about encountering the defendant who called the complainant over, took her by the hand and led her into a bushy area.” Justice Vui further noted its alleged the defendant kissed the victim and conducted other alleged sexual acts.
“He said the complainant was crying and tried to push the defendant away. “And that the complainant was lying on the ground with the defendant on top of her. “He also testified there was a time when the couple were on their sides and he could see only the defendant’s back.” The witness further informed the court several times that what the defendant was doing to the complainant was a “meavalea”.
The victim’s nephew upon returning home reported what happened to his aunt and the aunt took the boy to the defendant’s house. The defendant denied doing any “meavalea” to the complainant.
Justice Vui noted the defendant testified that on the day of this alleged incident, a lot of people were on the road going to the shop.
“He claomed there was a boy of the village named Kato that he greeted and said “hello” to and had a conversation with.
“It is noted neither Kato nor any other village person was called as a witness to support the defendant’s contentions.
“His further testimony was that he met up with the complainant and the young people and shook hands with the complainant.”
Justice Vui further noted that according to the defendant, he shook hands with the victim’s nephew.
The defendant further said that he consumed three large bottles of beer and in the evening when he was feeding his pigs the victim’s aunt arrived.
“She accused him of molesting the complainant which he denied.”
Justice Vui stated the defendant admitted he knew her from previously encountering her on the road and that he was not aware of her mental condition.
“This I found difficult to believe coming from someone living three houses from the complainant,” said Justice Vui.
“I have no doubt he was well aware of the complainant’s mental incapacities.”
Justice Vui told the defendant on Thursday “I do not believe a word you are saying.
“I prefer T’s (victim’s nephew) eyewitness evidence even with its inconsistencies.
“It is more believable and credible and is in accord with the other prosecution evidence.
“I find you guilty of the charge of committing sexual violation by way of sexual connection,” said Justice Vui.
Justice Vui had ordered a pre-sentence report to be prepared by the Probation Officer last Thursday. The defendant will be sentenced today at 10am.