Pennsylvania train rape suspect had been considered for deportation in 2018 but was given second chance

·2 min read
 (Upper Darby Police Department)
(Upper Darby Police Department)

The man accused of raping a woman in a moving train in Pennsylvania was previously considered for deportation by the immigration authorities after overstaying his student visa.

Philadelphia police arrested 35-year-old Fiston Ngoy on Wednesday last week after a woman was sexually assaulted in front of multiple passengers on a Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (Septa) train on the Market-Frankford line.

The suspect, who listed a homeless shelter as his last residence in official records, had come to the US legally in 2012 after obtaining a student visa, according to a report.

After dropping out as a student, however, the Congolese man’s visa was reportedly terminated in 2015.

He has previously been held for multiple arrests and two misdemeanour convictions, including one count of sexual abuse and for controlled substances, court records show.

The 35-year-old man had also pled guilty to a sexual abuse offence in 2017 in Washington DC, resulting in a prison sentence of 120 days and additional nine months of probation.

After this, he was sent to immigration detention in January 2018 but was not deported after an immigration judge ordered a “withholding of removal” notice in March 2019. This came after the Board of Immigration Appeals noted that the sex offence committed by him was not a “serious crime” rendering him ineligible to remain in the US.

Last week, Septa officials said a man had to be pulled off a woman he was harassing and assaulting for 40 minutes after a railways employee called 911 to report the attack at around 11pm. Officials have since said that a number of other passengers on the train who witnessed the sexual assault held up their phones to film the rape and did not intervene, either directly or by calling 911.

The woman and her attacker had boarded the train at the same stop, following which he tried to start a conversation with her, officials said. The man proceeded to grope, harass and eventually rape the woman in a sustained attack lasting at least 24 train stops.

The attack has been recorded on Septa’s surveillance cameras, officials said.

Police officers intervened within three minutes of the first call to 911 reporting the incident, made by a Septa employee, and took the suspect into custody before the train had reached its last stop.

Thomas J Nestel III, chief of Septa’s transit police department, gave a news conference this week describing the inaction of passengers during the attack: “What we want is everyone to be angry and disgusted and to be resolute about making the system safer.”

Mr Ngoy has been charged with rape and assault, and remains in custody on $180,000 (£130,000) bail. He is set to be presented in court on Monday 25 October.

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