A Pennsylvania prosecutor said it’s “simply not true” that several passengers on a commuter train outside Philadelphia took cellphone video of a homeless man raping a woman last week.
Delaware County District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer told reporters Thursday the narrative that groups of riders were “callously sitting there filming and didn’t act” during the Oct. 13 attack in Upper Darby was inaccurate, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
“People get off and on at every single stop,” Stollsteimer said. “That doesn’t mean when they get on and they see people interacting that they know a rape is occurring … The picture that people have gotten, that this crowd of people sitting there were filming and not doing anything, isn’t true.”
But Stollsteimer did acknowledge that prosecutors have new video in the case that was shot by a passenger. He said he had yet to view the footage and was unsure if it included the actual attack, the Inquirer reported.
The prosecutor blamed Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority officials for the inaccurate version of events, according to NBC News.
“I think it really came from SEPTA officials,” Stollsteimer said. “I saw the video where they talked about ‘these people,’ acting like there was a group of people just callously recording this incident.”
Stollsteimer’s press conference came days after authorities, including the police chief of SEPTA and Upper Darby police, said Fiston Ngoy, a 35-year-old homeless man from Philadelphia, raped a woman for six minutes as other passengers looked on while holding their cellphones but didn’t use the devices to call 911.
Stollsteimer said that was “misinformation” on Thursday as he tried to “calm the community down.”
He declined to blame SEPTA officials for the inaccurate narrative, the Inquirer reported.
SEPTA officials refused to respond to Stollsteimer’s remarks, the newspaper reported. Upper Darby Police Superintendent Timothy Bernhardt maintained Thursday he was dejected that no one intervened, but is now more concerned with identifying witnesses to the alleged rape.
“We don’t want to scare any witnesses into not coming forward,” said Bernhardt, who also attended Thursday’s press conference.
Stollsteimer said two people “may have” actually videotaped the incident on their cellphones, one of which was turned over to investigators. One of the people was “probably” the person who made an anonymous tip to SEPTA police, the New York Times reported.
Police have previously said an off-duty SEPTA worker called transit cops, who arrived minutes later to stop the assault and arrest Ngoy, who listed a shelter in Philadelphia as his last address. He told authorities the encounter was consensual, but surveillance footage didn’t back up that claim, police said.
Ngoy, 35, was arrested by SEPTA cops as the train pulled into a station in Upper Darby. He remains jailed on $180,000 bail on charges of rape, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, and sexual assault.
SEPTA officials have refused to release the surveillance video purportedly showing the attack, citing an ongoing criminal investigation.
The victim, who was taken to a hospital after the alleged rape, told cops she had never met Ngoy before and didn’t consent for him to touch her. His public defender has declined to comment ahead of a hearing scheduled for Monday.
A SEPTA spokesman, meanwhile, said the agency stood by its earlier account.
“We really want to come out of this highlighting the need for people to call if they see something that doesn’t look right,” spokesman Andrew Busch told the Times.
With Post wires