Alleged plotter to assassinate P.M. changes plea

A man, who initially pleaded guilty to a charge of conspiring to assassinate Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Dr. Sa'ilele Malielegaoi, has changed his plea. 

Taualai Leiloa, through his lawyer, Fuimaono Sarona Ponifasio, vacated his guilty plea in the Supreme Court on Friday.

The matter was called before Acting Chief Justice, His Honour Vui Clarence Nelson.  

Fuimaono sought the change of plea on grounds that she has issues with the summary of facts by the prosecution. 

She added that she has concerns over the charges against her client. 

Leiloa is one of  three men accused of conspiring to kill the Prime Minister. He faces two counts of conspiring to murder Tuilaepa.

He initially pleaded guilty to the charges at first instance. 

Leiloa, who is currently residing in Lauli’i, was instructed by Justice Vui three weeks ago to apply for a lawyer under legal aid due to the gravity of the offending. 

The Acting Chief Justice granted the request for an adjournment to allow defence to file a formal submission to support their application. 

The defendant is remanded on bail with conditions that he resides in Lauli'i. 

Leiloa was charged with two other co-defendants, Lemai Faioso Sione and Malele Paulo, also known as King Faipopo.

Paulo and Lemai have entered a not guilty plea to two charges against them. 

The men have been remanded in custody pending a bail hearing on 29 November that is closed to the public.

Police are still working with the Australian authority to extradite the fourth suspect, Talalelei Pauga.

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