PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (AP) — A court in American Samoa has ruled a former teacher convicted of raping his 13-year-old student may leave prison on weekdays to work at a church next to a school.
Tone Pulou is serving a two-year sentence. He pleaded guilty to rape earlier this year in a deal with prosecutors.
The High Court of American Samoa said last week Pulou may leave prison to work at the headquarters of Congregational Christian Church of American Samoa from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The church, which is the largest religious group in American Samoa, hired the 27-year-old as a janitor. The church operates an elementary and secondary school next to its headquarters.
Pulou is earning money to pay his victim $100 a month in child support for the son he fathered. He must also reimburse American Samoa $5,600 for extradition costs incurred after he was arrested in Honolulu.
Prosecutors strongly objected to the court's decision.
Deputy Attorney General Mitzie Jessop said it's a concern when a convicted rapist is let out into the community and even more so when there is the possibility of the rapist having access to other young children.
"Our concern is to protect our children and we cannot afford to give a convicted rapist the benefit of the doubt," Jessop said.
Ipu Lefiti-Avegalio, an advocate for rights of victims of sexual assault and domestic violence, said she fears the decision has set back years of hard work.
"I'm totally amazed that the church decides to place a convicted child sex offender in the midst of their religious compound where two-thirds are children. The courts might as well allow sex felons into the schools," she said.
Pulou's attorney, Michael White, said he's pleased Pulou may support his son without the government's help and repay money he owes the government.
Pulou "can become a productive member of society and not just simply rot in jail while the taxpayers foot his obligations," White said.
According to court documents, hospital staff contacted Child Protective Services in mid-2010 about a pregnant minor after the girl and her mother went to LBJ Medical Center to see an obstetrician. The girl told police she and Pulou had sex in his pickup truck.
Pulou admitted he had sexual intercourse with the girl on a day between September 2009 and February 2010 when he was a teacher at Alofau Elementary.