2 sentenced to life in prison in hotel security guard assault

KAILUA-KONA — In an emotionally charged courtroom, three individuals were sentenced Friday for their role in the vicious beating of a hotel security guard.

Wesley Samoa and Natisha Tautalatasi were found guilty June 25 of attempted second-degree murder and Lama Lauvao was convicted of first-degree assault in the brutal assault on security guard John Kanui caught on surveillance video in September 2018.

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On Friday, Kona Circuit Judge Melvin Fujino sentenced Samoa and Tautalatasi to life in prison with the possibility of parole. Lauvao was sentenced to 10 years incarceration.

The convictions stem from an incident that occurred early Sept. 17, 2018, when Samoa, Tautalatasi and Lauvao got into an altercation with Kanui while in the parking lot at the Kona Seaside Hotel off Palani Road in Kailua-Kona.

Hotel video surveillance of the incident shows Samoa, Tautalatasi and Lauvao along with a fourth person, later identified as Mahealani Kanehailua, chatting outside the hotel when the security guard pulls up in a golf cart. After what appeared to be an exchange of words, the video shows the three suspects pull the guard out of the cart and repeatedly kick and punch him in the head, back and stomach.

Kanehailua of Kona was indicted in November by a Big Island grand jury on charges of attempted first-degree hindering prosecution in connection with the incident. She was acquitted of the charge following a bench trial in May before Fujino.

Following the assault, Kanui was airlifted to The Queen’s Medical Center on Oahu. He suffered a cervical spine fracture. The 63-year-old was later moved to a mainland hospital for further treatment.

Samoa’s attorney, Barry Sooalo, as he did during trial, again on Friday tried to shift blame to the victim, saying Kanui had a part in the assault, and “it takes two to tango.”

However, Samoa told the court in his statement that Sooalo was “a bad attorney.” He asked to have a court-appointed attorney represent him at his appeal, noting Sooalo drained his family’s finances. He also offered an apology to the Kanui family.

Samoa’s mother got down on her hands and knees and begged the court for leniency for her son.

In a rambling statement, Tautalatasi apologized to the Kanui family and asked for mercy for herself, Lauvao and Samoa. Lauvao also apologized to the Kanui family and took full responsibility for his actions.

Kanui’s family related how the beating affected them and how the man they knew and loved has been changed forever.

Kanui’s daughter, Jennifer Farrell, said she thought the sentence the three received was fair.

“It’s a sad situation for both families,” she said, adding that it is hard to forgive the trio for what they did. “I struggle to believe they are remorseful.”

Before handing down his sentence, Fujino said Tautalatasi was the worst one in the beating, noting Kanui was on the ground and she just kept on beating him.

Fujino noted all of the letters of support he received on Samoa’s behalf, but was bound to sentence him to life because of the conviction.

Fujino stated that Samoa, Tautalatasi and Lauvao all contributed to Kanui’s injuries, all three were intoxicated and all three have a history in the criminal justice system.

Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Chase Murray was pleased with the verdict and sentencing.

“We are glad the Kanui family got justice,” he said.

The Hawaii Paroling Authority within six months will set the actual minimum terms Samoa, Tautalatasi and Lauvao must serve before becoming eligible for parole.

Kanui, who served 20 years with the Hawaii National Guard, remains paralyzed in a 24-hour care facility on the mainland.

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Speaking about her father, Farrell said, “He’s serving a life sentence in his chair.”

Email Laura Ruminski at lruminski@westhawaiitoday.com.

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