Pennsylvania prosecutor Michael A. Smith has changed the story about a woman assaulted on a commuter rail train. He said that the riders were not using their cellphones to intervene.
Delaware County District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer, responding to intense media coverage, said Thursday it was “simply not true” SEPTA passengers were seen reaching for their phones last week instead of trying to stop the alleged attack or seeking help.
Stollsteimer claimed that other passengers were not on board for the whole incident of Oct. 13 at 40 minutes and might not have understood what was happening.
“People get off and on at every single stop,” Stollsteimer spoke. “That doesn’t mean when they get on, and they see people interacting that they know a rape is occurring,” He stated.
“People in this region are not, in my experience, so inhuman and callous that they’re going to sit there and watch this happen and videotape it – as one journalist said today – for their private enjoyment.
“The picture that people have gotten, that this crowd of people sitting there was filming and not doing anything isn’t true,” According to the prosecutor.
Stollsteimer’s comments came after he reviewed transit surveillance video of the lengthy interaction, he said. He also appealed to witnesses Thursday, stating that there would not be any legal retribution for anyone seeing the alleged rape.
After days of authorities stating that multiple passengers were within view of the incident, his press conference was held after some witnesses claimed they had used their phones to record Fiston Ngoy, 35, raping the woman in a train carriage seat.
SEPTA officers arrested Ngoy after an off-duty transit officer summoned him to take him to the station. He is being held in lieu of $180,000 on charges including rape, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse and sexual assault.
His first court appearance is set for Monday.
According to the prosecution, a surveillance video showed two people holding their phones in the direction the attack was being conducted. One of those individuals had already provided their video to investigators.
Timothy Bernhardt, Upper Darby Police Chief, told reporters last weekend that there were still passengers. “should have done something,” He stated.
“There were other people on the train who witnessed this horrific act, and it may have been stopped sooner if a rider called 911,” said the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority in a statement after the arrest.
Transit police chief Thomas Nestel III said Monday, “I don’t want to, and I can’t, frankly, speculate as to what was on people’s minds. But from the video, it does appear that people were holding their phones up, in the direction of what was happening.”
The transportation authority, responding to a request for comment from Inside Edition Digital, said, “SEPTA is working closely with the Delaware County District Attorney’s Office as this case moves forward. We don’t have anything to add to the statement and comments we have made over the last week.”
Inside Edition Digital sent an email to the Upper Darby Police Department, asking for comment on the prosecutor’s statements.