Attempted murder convict Tulaga jailed 28 years
Commercial farmer, Peter Tulaga, has been jailed for 28 years for attempting to murder Frysna Rimoni.
Tulaga was sentenced on Thursday, having been found guilty of attempted murder by a panel of assessors in May.
His sentencing was handed down by Supreme Court Judge, Justice Tafaoimalo Leilani Tuala – Warren, who pointed out that the conduct of Tulaga towards Ms. Rimoni, since the offence, indicates he has no remorse and has not accepted responsibility for his actions.
“According to the evidence, after he shot her, he took his belongings into his car and went back inside the house where she was, at least once, without rendering any assistance to Frysna,” Justice Tafaoimalo said.
“His siblings who were outside the house said they could hear someone moaning for help from inside the house. When the defendant was asked in Court why he did not take her to the hospital, he said because (she was) ‘fa'avalevalea’(stupid).
“He still maintains his innocence to the Probation in his pre-sentence report. These reveal his attitude to the offence and to Frysna. He intended for her to die and did not show any concern if she died.”
In acknowledging that the sentence imposed on Tulaga will be the highest to date for the offence of attempted murder, Justice Tafaoimalo emphasised that each case turns on its facts and circumstances. She described the offending as the worst case of intimate partner violence she has encountered.
Justice Tafaoimalo said the matter is the worst one that has come before the Court in the recent past in terms of permanent disfigurement and long term impact to Ms. Rimoni and her family.
“Due to the actions of the defendant, Frysna has emotional, physical and psychological impacts which are lifelong and permanent,” Justice Tafaoimalo said.
“She will never be able to see again, she may never be able to smell or taste again. Her face is permanently disfigured. She may never have children and may never be able to fend for herself.
“Her elderly parents have been handed a life sentence and that is to be full time carers for their adult daughter.”
Ms. Rimoni, who is an accountant by profession, requires full-time care. She will not be able to work again. She must now live with her mother in New Zealand due to ongoing medical treatment for her.
Justice Tafaoimalo said the financial cost would be difficult to quantify in this case, let alone the emotional cost to the victim, her parents and her family.
“Frysna and her mother now experience hardship in a country which is not their own, they have been dislocated from their home, and face unfamiliar and unexpected issues and obstacles,” she said.
“A notable example for me is Frysna’s 72-year-old mother having to now familiarise herself with the features of a cellphone so that she can book appointments and keep in touch with family. Their lives have been shattered and transformed in a tragic and drastic way.
“It is safe to say that the victim has been handed a life sentence as her quality of life is almost non-existent, and the outlook for the rest of her life is not positive.
“She has permanent disability impacting on her quality of life in a substantial way. She will never be able to return to Samoa due to the ongoing medical treatment she needs which she cannot access in Samoa.”
About Tulaga’s unapologetic gesture, Justice Tafaoimalo said she does not find that he has any intention to address his offending behaviour, or to make amends to the victim.
A aggravating factor that the Judge considered is the unregistered shotgun used by Tulaga to shoot Ms. Rimoni.
“Not only was a lethal weapon used here on Frysna, whom the defendant said he intended to marry, it was used for the intention of killing her because he aimed and shot it at her face from close proximity,” she explained.
“Due to the need for deterrence in this case and deterrence to the wider community, this sentence will be a lengthy custodial sentence.
“There is a need to convey to the public in no uncertain terms that this offending which involves extreme violence by the use of a firearm will be dealt with sternly by the Court.
“In this case, the weapon used was unregistered and therefore unlawful. The defendant should never have been able to purchase ammunition for this firearm without a permit.”
Prosecutor and Assistant Attorney General, Magele Leone Su’a, had submitted that a start point of 25 years is appropriate, to reflect the seriousness of the offending, and an uplift of 5 years to reflect the grave impact of the offending on Ms. Rimoni and her family.
Defence lawyer Tauiliili Harry Schuster did not make a submission on the sentencing.
However, in mitigation Tauiliili submitted that Tulaga has a young family and elderly mother who he had been looking after prior to the offending through his plantation.
Having considered the submissions, Justice Tafaoimalo took into account all aggravating factors and took 30 years as the starting point for sentence.
Two years was deducted for Tulaga’s previous good character and personal circumstances.
For the additional charges of being in possession of an unregistered firearm, namely a 12 gauge shotgun rifle break action single barrel, and being armed with a dangerous weapon, without lawful, the defendant is convicted and discharged.
According to the pre-sentence report, Tulaga is 38 years old with 3 children.
He attended Vaiusu Primary School, St Joseph’s College, Samoa College and University Preparatory Year (UPY).
He then worked at the National Bank of Samoa for 10 years before moving to New Zealand in 2009 and came back in 2010 with a certificate in Mechanical Engineering.
Tulaga was married and had opened a little shop and commercial farming.
The pre-sentence report noted that Tulaga said he made an annual income of $300,000 tala.
He had won the Best Commercial Taro Farming Award at the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries Show in 2016 and 2018.
He moved to New Zealand with his wife and children in 2017 having been successful in the New Zealand quota scheme.
However he returned to Samoa shortly after while his wife and children remained in New Zealand.
“He says he is still operating his farming business from prison, regularly communicating with his sister and her husband on business updates,” stated the pre-sentence report.
“He still sends money for his wife and children, although he says he and his wife are going through a divorce.”
In addition, Tulaga said he has a heart problem and has had not been able to have a checkup since being in custody.
Tulaga’s mother told probation that the defendant is hard working, strong willed and supportive. She said he is kind hearted and willing to assist others including family, friends and acquaintances.
The mother added that the offending is completely out of character and pleads for the Court’s leniency.
Tulaga has a previous conviction for bigamy in 2010.