KEALAKEKUA — The second of three defendants in the attempted murder of a hotel security guard took the stand Thursday, telling jurors she didn’t recall kicking and punching the victim as he lay motionless on the ground during the Sept. 17 incident.
Natisha Tautalatasi, along with Lama Lauvao and Wesley Samoa, is on trial for attempted second-degree murder in connection with a beating at the Kona Seaside Hotel that critically injured security guard John Kanui. She testified in her own defense.
Questioned by her attorney William Reece, Tautalatasi told the court that she is a caregiver for the elderly and disabled in Honolulu and she was sick on the day of the assault, and drank shots of Crown Royal to remedy her sore throat.
She indicated that she and her fiance, Lama Lauvao, came to Kona as a getaway in an attempt to salvage their relationship. However, as the day progressed and more alcohol was consumed she became an emotional wreck.
Tautalatasi admitted that the music coming from their vehicle was loud, but they turned it down when Kanui initially approached the group.
“I recall seeing him when he was directly in front of us,” she stated. “I told him, ‘Sir, what’s the problem? We turned the music down.’”
She then said that Kanui told her that she was making noise earlier and that he was going to issue a trespass on the group.
“I was giving him respect and he was being mean to me,” she explained. “Then he said, ‘You f—ing Samoans always making trouble, making noise,’ I was very insulted,” she continued.
She said that it was a reaction to what he said that made her throw a plate of food at Kanui, who was still seated in the security cart.
She testified that Kanui grabbed her and pulled her into the cart where she was hit with something on the head. She said she felt a little dazed, saw stars and blacked out a little bit as she fell backward.
“I told Lama that he f—ing hit me. Everything after that is hazy,” she said of the brutal beating Kanui endured.
Reece asked her how she felt after viewing the surveillance video.
“Like who is that crazy lady on the screen? That can’t be me, that can’t be us. That’s not who we are. That’s not our character,” Tautalatasi responded. “I can’t sleep at night, I’m haunted by it. It’s very disturbing.”
Tautalatasi said she only learned about the extent of Kanui’s injuries when she saw the video of him at the Denver rehabilitation hospital viewed Wednesday in court.
“I didn’t know he was that bad. I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy,” she stated.
“I sat in jail since September wondering why I did that. I would never do that. I shouldn’t have taken that last drink,” she told the jury. “I should have walked away.”
She told the Kanui family how sorry she was and hopes that someday they could forgive her.
Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Sheri Lawson went frame by frame through the video, asking Tautalatasi if that was her punching and kicking Kanui and after a minute of him lying motionless on the ground resumed kicking and punching the security guard in the head until she was pulled off of him by Mahealani Kanehailua.
Tautalatasi said she didn’t remember any of it, but admitted that is her on the video.
“I remember bits and pieces of the night,” said Tautalatasi. “I was angry.”
Samoa did not testify Thursday prior to all three defenses resting. Lauvao took the stand in his own defense on Wednesday.
The trial continues today in Kona Circuit Court Judge Melvin H. Fujino’s courtroom with closing arguments by the prosecution and defense. After jury instructions, the jury will begin deliberation.
If convicted of attempted second-degree murder, each faces life imprisonment with the possibility of parole and up to a $50,000 fine.