Two men sentenced for aggravated burglary, robbery

Two of the four men charged in connection with the death of a Chinese businessman in Vaitele last year, have been sentenced by the Supreme Court.

The four defendants Gogosina Leilua, Tafi Samuelu, Mikaele Leilua and Kome Sioeli appeared before Supreme Court Justice Tafaoimalo Leilani Tuala Warren on Thursday for sentencing.

However, the sentencing for Gogosina and Sioeli were adjourned to later dates after their attorneys Leiataualesa Komisi Koria and Charlie Vaai said they would file applications in relation to their sentences.

It is not clear what the applications are for. However, sentencing for Mikaele and Samuelu went ahead.

Mikaele, who was represented by Mauga Precious Chang, has been sentenced to serve nine-and-a-half months in prison.

Samuelu, represented by counsel Leinafo Taimalelagi, was sentenced to six months in prison. However, due to him he receiving credit for time served and being in prison for over six months, Justice Tafaoimalo ordered that Samuelu be released from custody.

The prosecution asked for four years in prison and defence attorney Mauga asked for 12 months imprisonment.

Sentencing for Mikaele began at 24 months with one month added for a previous assault conviction.

He was charged with two counts: one count of aggravated burglary and one count of being armed with a dangerous weapon, a machete.

The aggravated burglary charge carries a maximum penalty of 14 years imprisonment. The dangerous weapon charge has a maximum penalty of one year.

The court heard that Mikaele was instrumental in the burglary. With his co-defendant Sioeli, they planned the burglary and approached the other defendants with the plan. 

Mikaele and Sioeli were both armed with machetes when they climbed over the fence and went into the business compound owned by the deceased victim, while Gogosina and Samuelu waited outside.

While he was in the compound, Mikaele came cross the deceased victim and other Chinese workers outside a warehouse. 

The deceased and his Chinese workers confronted and assaulted Mikaele and the defendant called out for help.

One of the Chinese used a timber to strike Mikaele.The deceased armed himself with a machete and struck the defendant with it.

The aggravating factors, in respect to Mikaele, is that he was instrumental in the crime; was armed with an extremely dangerous weapon; invaded private property and had a previous conviction for assault from 2018.

However, the mitigating factors were a village penalty which he has paid; and his expressed remorse and positive character reference letters from his mother, Pastor and his guilty plea.

Mikaele has been sentenced to nine-and-half-months in prison for aggravated burglary. And upon his release from custody, he must serve six months supervision at the Samoa Victims’ Support Group [S.V.S.G.].

He was discharged for the armed with a dangerous weapon charge and remanded in custody after sentencing.

Samuelu was charged with aggravated burglary and being armed with a dangerous weapon [a kitchen knife]. But the armed with a dangerous weapon charge was later withdrawn.

He armed himself with a kitchen knife as he was going along with the plan formulated by two of his co-defendants.

Upon arrival at the Chinese premises, according to Justice Tafaoimalo, Samuelu waited outside the fence for his co-defendant. 

Samuelu has no previous convictions. Aggravating factors were he was armed with a kitchen knife; and was one of multiple defendants to enter the compound.

He expressed remorse for his actions, paid a village penalty and pleaded guilty.

Prosecution sought four years in prison for Samuelu. Defense counsel said an appropriate starting point was eight months in prison.

Samuelu did enter the compound but he retreated when he saw Mikaele being assaulted by the deceased and the Chinese workers.

Consequently, he was convicted of aggravated burglary and Samuelu received six months in prison. Also, he must serve 12 months supervision at S.V.S.G.

The court took into consideration that both Samuelu’s parents are dead. However, defense counsel Taimalelagi noted that the defendant’s mother passed away last year but his father is still alive and living in New Zealand.

Sentencing began at 18 months in prison; five months were deducted for his age [he is 18]; two months for his remorse and personal circumstances and three months for his village penalty and two months for his guilty plea.

 “He has been in custody longer than his sentence so has now served his time and he can be released,” said Justice Tafaoimalo.

Justice Tafaoimalo adjourned Gogosina’s matter to 31 July, 2020 while Sioeli’s was rescheduled for 22 August, 2020.

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