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Criminal Charges Unlikely For Passengers Who Stood By During Rape Aboard Train, Authorities Say
Authorities say the suspect, 35-year-old Fiston Ngoy, harassed the victim for more than 40 minutes before attacking her.
Following a shocking sexual assault that took place on a commuter train outside Philadelphia, authorities say criminal charges seem unlikely for passengers stood by and did nothing to stop it, while others may have even filmed the incident.
On Wednesday, authorities were alerted to a rape on the Market-Frankford line near Philadelphia, as previously reported. Witnesses failed to call 911 or intervene during the eight-minute-long assault of a woman whose name has not been released.
Now, the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority is saying that passengers possibly filmed the attack on their phones.
“I can tell you that people were holding their phone up in the direction of this woman being attacked,” said SEPTA Police Chief Thomas J. Nestel III, according to Fox 29.
Authorities say the suspect in the attack, 35-year-old Fiston Ngoy, harassed the woman for more than 40 minutes, with over two dozen train stops in between, according to an arrest affidavit cited by Fox 29. The victim did not know her attacker, but they boarded the train from the same station at around 9:15 p.m. Surveillance video captured the woman attempting to rebuff his advances and even trying to push him away until the suspect ripped the victim’s pants off at around 9:52 p.m.
A SEPTA employee boarded the train car and noted that “something wasn’t right,” according to Upper Darby Police Superintendent Timothy Bernhardt. The employee alerted authorities, who reached the car at the next stop.
“The assault was observed by a SEPTA employee, who called 911, enabling SEPTA to respond immediately and apprehend the suspect in the act,” SEPTA said in a statement emailed to Oxygen.com.
At Monday’s press conference, SEPTA Police Chief Nestel continued.
“What we want is everyone to be angry and disgusted and to be resolute about making the system safer,” said Nestel, according to the New York Post. “We need the public to notify us when they see something that seems to be unusual.”
Ngoy was immediately arrested and charged with rape, sexual assault, and aggravated indecent assault without consent.
Bernhardt said the victim was being cooperative with police and was an “unbelievably strong woman.”
“I’m appalled by those who did nothing to help this woman,” said Bernhardt, according to The New York Times. “Anybody that was on that train has to look in the mirror and ask why they didn’t intervene or why they didn’t do something.”
Bernhardt said the decision to possibly file criminal charges against the onlookers would be left to the Delaware County District Attorney’s Office, but noted that the state of Pennsylvania had not adopted a Good Samaritan law, which could make the process “very difficult.”
Margie McAboy, the Director of Police and Public Engagement for the Delaware County District Attorney's Office responded to questions surrounding possible charges.
"This is an ongoing investigation," McAboy told Oxygen.com. "But at the present time, there is no expectation that charges will be brought against any passengers."
The next court hearing for Ngoy has been scheduled for Oct. 25.