Passengers on board a metro Philadelphia train who filmed a man raping a stranger will not face charges for failing to intervene, prosecutors confirmed on Wednesday – despite widespread outrage at their actions.
Fiston Ngoy, a 35-year-old from the Congo who has been living illegally in the U.S. since 2015, was arrested and charged in the horrifying attack last Wednesday.
He is seen on surveillance camera footage on board a Southeastern Pennsylvania Transport Authority (SEPTA) train near the suburb of Upper Darby.
Police say that as many as 10 bystanders on the train did nothing but pull out their phones to film as Ngoy sexually assaulted the stranger shortly after 9.15pm.
The attack continued until 9.52pm, when an off-duty transit worker eventually called 911.
‘It’s still an open investigation, but there is no expectation at this time that we will charge passengers,’ said Margie McAboy, spokeswoman for the Delaware County District Attorney’s office.
District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer said prosecutors want witnesses to come forward, rather than fearing prosecution.
‘Pennsylvania law does not allow for the prosecution of a passenger who may have witnessed a crime.’
Fiston Ngoy, 35, was present in the US illegally when he was charged with raping a woman on a Philadelphia train
SEPTA Transit Police Chief Thomas Nestel III, seen through window at left, stands by during a news conference regarding the horrifying sex attack on a SEPTA train last week
The assault took place in Northeast Philadelphia aboard a SEPTA train
Authorities continue to investigate the October 13 attack, where a woman was repeatedly touched and groped over the course of a 40-minute ride.
The attack continued despite her trying to push Ngoy away, according to an arrest affidavit that detailed the surveillance footage from the train.
Investigators say Ngoy ripped the woman’s pants off and proceeded to rape her for somewhere between six and eight minutes before officers boarded the train and detained him.
Ngoy sat down next to the woman about a minute after he boarded the train car, shortly after 9.15pm, investigators wrote in an affidavit of probable cause for his arrest, obtained by The Philadelphia Inquirer.
Surveillance video, which police have not released, shows him forcing himself on her as she pushed him away multiple times for over 30 minutes, until he is seen ripping off her pants around 9.52pm.
Jack Stollsteimer, the district attorney, said he was not intending on prosecuting people for failing to assist the woman during the attack
Upper Darby Police Superintendent Timothy Bernhardt said that while there were multiple people on the train, it was ultimately an off-duty SEPTA employee who made the call to 911, which allowed officers to arrest Ngoy.
Bernhardt said officers responded within three minutes following the lone 911 call, which came when the SEPTA employee saw Ngoy forcefully pulling off the victim’s clothes.
Police would not disclose exactly how many witnesses were there and how many filmed the scene, but it the train made 27 stops on SEPTA’s busiest route in the time Ngoy assaulted the woman.
‘There was a lot of people, in my opinion, that should have intervened. Somebody should have done something,’ Bernhardt said.
‘It speaks to where we are in society and who would allow something like that to take place. So it’s troubling.’
SEPTA Transit Police Chief Thomas Nestel III told Philadelphia radio station WPHT on Tuesday that the attack was deeply concerning.
‘As many as 10 people actually saw some part of the attack on this rider,’ he said.
Describing police review of surveillance video, Nestel said: ‘We were watching to see if somebody put a phone up to their ear indicating they might be calling 911.
‘Instead, what we saw was people holding their phone up as if they were recording or taking pictures.’
Transit officials speak at the 69th Street Transportation Center, Monday, Oct. 18, 2021, in Philadelphia, following a brutal rape on the train, as other riders watched, over the weekend
SEPTA spokesman John Golden added in a statement: ‘It may have been stopped sooner if a rider called 911.’
A new report revealed that Ngoy, who gave his address as Philadelphia-based homeless shelter the Broad Street Ministry, is a Congolese national present in the U.S. illegally.
He entered the U.S. on a student visa in 2012, but remained after the visa was terminated in 2015 and was protected from deportation by the immigration system – despite multiple convictions as recent as this May.
Court records show that Ngoy had multiple arrests dating back to 2015 and two misdemeanor convictions, one for controlled substances and one for sexual abuse.
He pleaded guilty to the sex charge in 2017 in Washington DC and was sentenced to 120 days in jail, and was then placed in immigration detention in January 2018.
However, Ngoy was never deported, because an immigration judge granted him a ‘withholding of removal’ in March 2019, after an appeals board found that his sex crime was not a ‘serious crime’ that made him eligible for removal.
Since then, Ngoy, has been free and required only to check in periodically with Immigration and Customs Enforcement under an order of supervision.
Nevertheless, he was arrested twice more in the past year, both for disorderly conduct, once in January 2020 and again just this May.
Ngoy told police on October 13 that he recognized the woman and went over to speak to her, according to the affidavit.
However, surveillance video and the victim’s account say otherwise.
Upper Darby Police Superintendent Timothy Bernhardt said it was disturbing that no passengers called 911 as they witnessed the victim being raped
She said that she had never seen Ngoy before he sat next to her, and then attacked her.
The alleged victim told police she remembered getting on the train and then nothing until the cops pulled her assailant off her.
She said she had had several beers after work, and got on the wrong train when Ngoy approached her.
She repeatedly pushed Ngoy away, as he attempted to touch her and at one point grabbed her breast, the video showed.
‘Throughout this time, the victim is obviously struggling with keeping him off of her,’ investigators wrote in the affidavit.
‘It’s disturbing that there were definitely people on the L, and no one intervened or did anything to help this woman out,’ Bernhardt said in an interview with NBC 10.
The victim was transported to a nearby hospital, where she was treated for her injuries following the assault.
Ngoy was charged with rape and assault.
He is currently being held at the Delaware County Prison and his bail is set at $180,000, according to court records, which do not show that he has hired an attorney or requested a public defender.
His next court appearance is a preliminary hearing on October 25 at 9am.