Church Minister facing sex charges vacates plea
A former Methodist Church Minister, Aukuso Tupa’i, has moved to withdraw his guilty plea in connection to the alleged rape of his wife’s niece who was living with them.
The defendant was initially charged with five counts of sexual violation, with each count carrying a maximum jail term of life imprisonment, according to the Police Summary of facts.
Apart from being a Church Minister, the Police report indicated the 49-year-old defendant from Sagone Savai’i, was married and employed as a teacher at Wesley College.
“The defendant is married to the victim’s aunty, being the sister of the victim,” says the Police report.
According to the Police report, the defendant had allegedly raped the victim three times between August 2014 and November 2014.
“At the time of the first offending, the victim was 18 and was attending Wesley College and was in Year 13.
“The victim was living with the defendant and his family at Faleula.”
The first incident allegedly occurred when the victim’s aunty was not at home and the victim was cleaning around.
“After a while, the victim walked into the house to get the teapot, the defendant followed the victim and locked all the doors.
“As the victim made her way out of the house to finish off her chores, the defendant called out to the victim to remain in the house.
“The victim complied and when he reached where she was, he pulled her into the adjoining bedroom.
“The defendant locked the bedroom, and told the victim to take off her clothes.
“The defendant tried to take off the victim’s T-shirt but the victim grabbed a hold of her shirt and raped her.”
The second incident allegedly occurred when the victim’s aunty was also not at the house and the defendant followed the victim into her bedroom and locked it.
The victim told the defendant that once her aunty returned, she was going back to her family.
“The defendant threatened the victim that even if she returns to her family, he will follow her there and kill her.
“The victim stood up to leave the bedroom but the defendant threatened the victim to comply with his sexual demands,” says the Police report.
It’s alleged the defendant then raped the victim again.
According to the Police report, the alleged third rape incident also occurred between August, 2014 and November, 2014.
“In January 2015 the victim discovered that she was pregnant with the defendant’s child and she gave birth in July, 2015.
“In January 2015, the defendant has his family moved to look after the parish at Neiafu Savaii as part of his ministerial calling,” says the Police report.
It’s alleged this was where the fourth incident occurred.
The Police report says that between 31 December, 2015 and February, 2016 at Neiafu, the aunty was taken to the hospital leaving the defendant, his children and the victim and her baby.
“The victim was breastfeeding her baby when the defendant approached her several times.”
The Police report indicated the defendant allegedly raped the victim for the fourth time.
Furthermore, the Police report indicated that another alleged rape incident occurred around the same period of time and by June, 2016; the victim discovered she was pregnant with the defendant’s second child.
“At the time the defendant’s wife was suspicious of the victim and the defendant.
“The victim never told anyone who the father of the children was until her family grew suspicious and she told her grandmother that the defendant was the father,” says the Police report.
Around November, 2016, the victim’s mother reported the matter to the police and the defendant was then taken in for questioning.
During his criminal mention in June, 2017, the defendant denied the charges.
However last month Tupa’i pleaded guilty to the rape charges.
He was subject to be sentenced before Supreme Court Justice Vui Clarence Nelson last week.
But Tupa’i appeared with his new lawyer, Shane Wulf, replacing Arthur Lesa.
The defendant, through his lawyer, sought the Court’s approval to vacate his guilty plea. Justice Vui rescheduled the matter for 18 December 2017 to hear the motion by defense on the grounds of vacating the guilty plea.