DA Pushes Back on Train Rape Narrative: 'Simply Not True'

Cops had said passengers on SEPTA train near Philly recorded assault instead of intervening
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 22, 2021 6:46 AM CDT
DA: 'Not True' Others Filmed Rape 'for Own Gratification'
A SEPTA regional train rolls into a station in Philadelphia in this Nov. 16, 2004, file photo.   (AP Photo/Jacqueline Larma, File)

The story of a horrific rape last week aboard a SEPTA train on the outskirts of Philly seemed to get even worse when cops revealed that bystanders sat by and did nothing to help, instead holding up their phones to record the incident. Now, Delaware County's chief prosecutor says that narrative is a false one, and that there's surveillance video to prove it. "That is simply not true. It did not happen," District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer said Thursday of the story floating that fellow passengers "watched this transpire and took videos of it for their own gratification," per NBC Philadelphia.

Stollsteimer says SEPTA security footage shows a "handful" of travelers hopping on and off the elevated commuter train on Oct. 13, but he adds they may not have realized exactly what was happening, especially during the times when the train was moving. As for everyone sitting around recording the rape, Stollsteimer says there may have been two people who did so, but at least one of them "probably" flagged down SEPTA staff. "People in this region are not, in my experience, so inhuman and callous" that they would do such a thing "for their own private enjoyment," Stollsteimer notes.

The original passengers-did-nothing narrative emerged from SEPTA officials and Upper Darby Police Department Superintendent Timothy Bernhardt, with Bernhardt calling it "disturbing." On Thursday, Stollsteimer didn't appear to point the finger at anyone in particular, but he slammed what he said was "misinformation" and compared the case to that of Kitty Genovese, who was stabbed to death in Queens in 1964. The story at the time was that dozens of witnesses similarly ignored her pleas for help, but it's a tale that's since been debunked, Stollsteimer noted, per the Philadelphia Inquirer.

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Whatever the true narrative, some SEPTA regulars are now wary. "I would never take SEPTA alone ever again without somebody being with me," one commuter tells CBS Philadelphia. A suspect, 35-year-old Fiston Ngoy, is in custody, being held on $180,000 bail. Meanwhile, Stollsteimer is also trying to get any witnesses to come tell what they saw, assuring them they won't be prosecuted for not intervening. (More Philadelphia stories.)

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