District Court Judge, Alalatoa Rosella Papali’i, has discharged without conviction the President of the Lands and Titles, Fepulea’i Atilla Ropati, who pleaded guilty to actual bodily harm.
A sentencing will be appealed by Attorney General Lemalu Herman Retzlaff, this was confirmed in a statement issued.
The matter was prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General, Rexona Titi, while Aumua Ming Leung Wai represented the defendant.
Lemalu pointed out that Fepulea’i assaulted a member of the community using two bottles causing injuries to the victim’s head that required medical treatment.
“The gravity of this offending was in our respectful view, far too serious for the defendant to be granted this result by the District Court.
“The sentence imposed needs to be revisited.
“And I have instructed my Assistant Attorney General Ms. Rexona Titi to file the appeal and I commend her for the job she undertook to prosecute this matter with the objectivity and integrity it required,” said the A.G.
During sentencing, Ms. Titi recommended jail time for the defendant.
“We have submitted two options for your honour's consideration, it’s a recommendation for four and a half years imprisonment as starting points before any adjustments have been made, which is most likely will go down.
“We also proposed that should your honour consider an alternative to imprisonment, then we recommend that it is a case that warrants conviction with an appropriate fine of a penalty of other means of sentencing that your honour sees fit, which should reflect the gravity of this offense,” said Ms. Titi.
Aumua, during his submissions, asked for the Court’s leniency in the sentencing of Fepulea’i.
The Defense Counsel noted that Fepulea’i made a terrible mistake, which attributed to the momentary lapse of judgement.
“The mistake which should have never had happened especially from a person such as the accused.
“He has apologised to the victim and was accepted.
“The accused is truly remorseful and is aware that his offending could cost him his career on the bench, a career he excelled at because within 18 months he presided as President of the Lands and Titles Court, he delivered 360 decisions, a remarkable feat which points to a remarkable judge who is dedicated, intelligent and hard working.
“As for the penalty, we respectfully seek the accused be discharged without conviction.
“As we submit the consequences of a conviction would be out of proportion to the gravity of the offending.
“We understand that discharge without conviction is also the recommendation of the pre-sentence report,” said Aumua.
He then read out what Fepulea’i submitted in an affidavit to the Court, which was in Samoan.
“Despite being unhappy with the security guard drinking alcohol on the job, I know I have no right to assault him,” said Fepulea’i.
He expressed remorse and is humble before God for what had occurred.
Fepulea’i apologised to the victim and his family, the honourable Court, Prime Minister and members of the public.
He further apologised to his Church Ministers and the church because the incident ruined the reputation of the Church and his mother and family.
In sentencing, Judge Alalatoa noted that having considered everything: “I am satisfied that the consequences of the conviction will be out of proportion to the gravity of the offending.
“I don’t see your case, Fepulea’i, as an exceptional case compared to the Supreme Court matters, which Justice Vaai discharged the accused there without conviction and ordered her to pay prosecution costs at $1,000.
“Yet in comparison, it is arguable that the matter had more aggravating factors.”
According to Judge Alalatoa, the defendant in that case denied the charge of intent to cause bodily harm and armed with a dangerous weapon, namely a pipe was used to strike the head of the victim.
“The defendant was found guilty and in sentencing, Justice Vaai said the whole incident could have been avoided had the accused exercised maturity and common sense and not succumb to accusations of her drunken assault son, who just punched his mother in law on the face.
“The defendant was overcome by anger and she was at the end of the day a grandmother and mother to her children who live overseas.
“The accused was, according to Justice Vaai, an ordinary mom.
“Prosecution says the difference between this matter and your (Fepulea’i) matter is because this case was a domestic dispute where the current matter involved in their view, an element of exercising authority.
“I do not accept that argument. Just because the incident happened as a domestic case for Fepulea’i doesn't make it any less severe than any.
“In fact, in my view it is a lot worse than your matter,” said Judge Alalatoa.
According to the Judge, the incident occurred at a social event where alcohol was involved.
“I know that this is a one off incident Fepulea’i and I also know this will not be repeated.
“I accept what you said as read out by your Counsel,” said Judge, Alalatoa.
Fepulea’i has to pay $1,000 restitution to the victim, $300 court fees, $100 for prosecution fees and $100 probation cost.
This is to be paid on Tuesday 15 May, 2018 by 10am.
He was also ordered to undergo counseling with the Drugs and Alcohol Court.
Judge Alalatoa concluded by thanking the lawyers in the case and she also thanked Fepulea’i and parties who were present in Court.