Prosecution Drop Manslaughter Charges Against Methodist Church Minister

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Reverend Poasa Leaupepe, seen here leaving the Courtroom with a half unbuttoned white shirt, his tie draped around the young woman's neck walking infromt of him.

Prosecution from the Office of the Attorney General have withdrawn charges of manslaughter and grievous bodily harm against a Methodist church minister accused of causing the death of a 16 year old boy from Safotu Savaii.

Reverend Poasa Leaupepe was surrounded by family and supporters outside Court. Tues 7 June 2022. Photo: Ganasavea Manuia Tafeaga/SGN.

Reverand Poasa Leaupepe was arrested and charged by the Samoa Police for the death of Sootaga Viliamu, a youth he had allegedly beaten while serving as a faifeau at the Methodist Church of Safotu, Savaii.

At the time of Reverend Leaupepe’s arrest in March 2021, Deputy Police Commissioner Auapaau Logoitino Filipo told Samoa Global News the faifeau faced one charge of manslaughter, one charge of causing grievous bodily harm, a third charge of causing injuries and one charge of assault in relation to the youth’s death.

In the Supreme Court Justice Fepuleai Ameperosa Roma stated the deceased was assaulted on 4 February 2020 and died later on the 28th of February, with the cause of death being leukemia.

According to parishioners, the Year 11 student was and member of the church youth was beaten by the faifeau infront of several witnesses. One parishioner told Samoa Global News that excessive force was used and a few church members had to intervene before the faifeau stopped.

However, in a telephone interview with Samoa Global News just after he was arrested, Reverend Leaupepe, who pleaded not guilty to all charges against him, said he was surprised when he was picked up by police from his office at the Methodist Church compound at Faleula. He said he did not understand why it had taken the police over a year to bring charges against him. He also told SGN he believed the young boy had died of leukemia.

Sootaga Viliamu’s body was finally released from the Motootua Hospital morgue to his grieving family in May 2021 following a long-awaited post mortem.

Samoa’s borders had closed and the post mortem could not be performed until a team of Chinese pathologists arrived to help clear the backlog.

Earlier this year a Private Prosecutor dropped manslaughter charges in relation to the death of 20-year-old Don Bosco student, Faileaso Penetito Toma of Vaiusu.

Asiloto Toma, whose son, Faileaso Penitito, died after being beaten beyond recognition.

Former police prosecutor Khamtahn Stanley and co-defendant Ulugia Lomalasi Laufili, both of Vaiusu, were handed discharges without conviction in the District Court and fined $500 tala – $250 to the Court and $250 to Police for costs.

Today, Faileaso’s father, Asiloto Toma, still awaits justice for the death of his son.

Methodist faifeau leaving Court.

Outside Court on Tuesday, Reverend Poasa Leaupepe was surrounded by supporters who blocked him from the view of court reporters. He took his tie off as he walked out of the Courtroom and unbuttoned his white shirt.

Reverand Leaupepe is due to appear in the District Court next week, to face assault charges in relation to the alleged beating of Sootaga Viliamu.

Also seen outside the Courtroom was Sootaga Viliamu’s mother. She came alone and was seen leaving the Courtroom before the defendant and his supporters walked out. The grieving mother told SGN she was too upset to comment. She was still crying as she left the Courthouse at Mulinuu.