Riders who did not report SEPTA rape won’t be charged, prosecutors say

Melissa Mitman

Riders who did nothing while a woman was allegedly raped last week aboard a Market-Frankford Line train will not face criminal charges, Delaware County authorities said.

Jack Stollsteimer, the county’s district attorney, said in a statement Wednesday that “Pennsylvania law does not allow for the prosecution of a passenger who may have witnessed the crime.” He urged people who saw the attack to contact his office.

No one attempted to intervene as the woman was being sexually assaulted, and some appeared to be filming the attack on their phones, according to SEPTA Transit Police Chief Thomas Nestel.

The incident, particularly the behavior of the onlookers, has drawn international media attention and has led SEPTA leaders to call on riders to be more vigilant in reporting criminal activity.

Fiston Ngoy, 35, was arrested in the act at 69th Street Transportation Center on the night of Wednesday, Oct. 13, after a SEPTA employee got on the train and called police, authorities said.

Investigators say Ngoy sat down next to the woman, who fought back as he tried to inappropriately touch her.

Both boarded the train at Frankford Transportation Center, and, at some point during the ride, he allegedly ripped off the victim’s clothes and raped her.

Ngoy’s attorney, Mary Elizabeth Welch, declined to comment on the case Thursday.

He has been charged with rape, involuntary deviant sexual intercourse, aggravated indecent assault and other crimes and is being held at Delaware County Prison on $180,000 bail, of which he must post 10% to be released.

Ngoy came to the United States in 2012 from the Democratic Republic of the Congo on a student visa, and he stayed in the country after those documents expired, according to federal court records.

At one point, he was held in an immigration detention center in York County as federal authorities attempted to have him deported for a 2017 sexual abuse conviction in Washington, D.C.

But an immigration board determined in 2019 that the misdemeanor offense did not constitute a serious enough crime that would prevent him from seeking legal status in the U.S.