Jury begins deliberation in security guard beating case

  • LAURA RUMINSKI/West Hawaii Today Wesley Samoa, left, Lama Lauvao and Natisha Tautalatasi leave the courtroom after the jury is sent to deliberate Friday in the attempted murder case against them.

KEALAKEKUA — Jurors began deliberating Friday in the case of an attempted murder of a hotel security guard.

The jury trial for Wesley Samoa, Natisha Tautalatasi and Lama Lauvao, accused of attacking Kona Seaside Hotel security guard John Kanui on Sept. 17, wrapped up with closing arguments Friday. Each suspect is charged with attempted second-degree murder.

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Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Sheri Lawson told the jury that actions speak louder than words.

“The defendants acted to kill, a coordinated effort to violently and viciously attack (Kanui) while he was doing his job,” she said.

Lawson explained that all three defendants are charged as principals and or accomplices.

“You can see from the video intentional acts … kicks … punches,” she said. “This is not a reckless act, it’s purposeful.”

Countering the defense’s charge that Kanui struck Tautalatasi in the head, starting the violent confrontation, Lawson replayed a portion of the surveillance video apparently showing the defendant hitting her head on the cart after being pulled off Kanui that caused the injuries the defense attributed to the security guard.

Lawson continued by saying that after one minute, the defendants saw Kanui, who is now paralyzed, lying motionless. They knew what they did, she told the jury, yet Tautalatasi goes back, kicks Kanui and strikes him at least 15-16 times to the head.

She stressed the fact that the attack was confined to Kanui’s head and neck, and the defendants’ conduct was not in question.

“They are all guilty of attempted murder because they all acted together,” she concluded.

Samoa’s attorney, Barry Sooalo, argued it’s all about alliances and obligations, and his client was obligated to get involved when a family member, Tautalatasi, was attacked by Kanui.

He said Samoa acted appropriately and his actions were justified. He stated each person has to be responsible for their part in the assault and to place accountability where it belongs, with Kanui, the aggressor.

He said the government was trying to hide the fact that Tautalatasi was attacked, battered and abused by Kanui.

“Kanui, in fact, assaulted Tisha,” he said.

Sooalo ended his argument by saying it was an absurd proposition that his client was guilty of attempted murder.

Tautalatasi’s attorney, William Reece, said Kanui used deadly force when he hit his client. He indicated Kanui was “not the sharpest knife in the drawer,” and that “it was stupid of him to pull (Tautalatasi) into the cart.”

“Poor training and psychological impairment escalated the situation,” Reece said.

“Mr. Kanui tried to commit attempted murder on Miss Tautalatasi,” Reece told the jury.

He said Tautalatasi was enraged by what Kanui said and she was intoxicated, and if she was too drunk, she couldn’t have intent.

“Mr. Kanui should not have disrespected Miss Tautalatasi. He invited the melee. He escalated it,” Reece said.

Reece also blamed the severity of Kanui’s injuries on the paramedics who treated him at the scene.

Lauvao’s attorney, Andrew Kennedy, argued that his client acknowledged he was wrong and that he did not make excuses for his actions.

“He came here for a vacation, not to kill someone,” Kennedy said.

“Lama only got involved when Tisha was pulled into the cart. It was an assault … a bad assault, but not attempted murder,” Kennedy continued.

The jury was instructed that they could find the defendants guilty of attempted second-degree murder as charged, with each facing life imprisonment with the possibility of parole and up to a $50,000 fine; attempted manslaughter because of extreme mental distress, a Class A felony punishable by up to 20 years imprisonment and up to a $50,000 fine; first-degree assault, a Class B felony punishable by up to 10 years imprisonment and up to a $25,000 fine; second-degree assault, a Class C felony punishable by up to five years imprisonment and up to $10,000 fine; reckless endangering, a misdemeanor; third-degree assault, a petty misdemeanor; or acquittal.

Samoa, Lauvao and Tautalatasi do not have to be found guilty of the same charges, rather the jury was instructed to consider each one individually.

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The jury did not return a verdict Friday. They will reconvene Tuesday morning in Judge Melvin Fujino’s Kona Circuit courtroom.

Email Laura Ruminski at lruminski@westhawaiitoday.com.

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