Nearly three years after Faileaso Penetito Toma died at Motootua National Hospital from horrific injuries which police found were sustained after a viscious beating carried out by two Vaiusu men, the pair are finally convicted of one charge of intent to cause acutal bodily harm, and ordered to pay fines.
Faileaso’s father is left without answers, “as nobody seems to be held responsible” for the death of his 20 year old boy.
Police Sergeant and former Prosecutor Khamtahn Stanley was this week ordered to pay a $3000 tala fine while Ulugia Lomalasi Laufili was handed a $500 tala fine.
Khantahn Stanley, with the help of his neighbour, Ulugia Lomalasi Laufili, beat the 20-year-old youth from the same village in the early hours of Saturday 23 November 2019.
Faileaso died at the Motootua hospital that same night with his parents by his side.
The grieving father, Asotasi Toma, often seen sitting at the back of the Courtrooom during the last two and a half years of court cases, told SGN the beatings had left his son’s face unrecognisable.
“His cheeks were not even attached, but just flapping on his face, and his whole body was bruised with so many broken bones,” the grieving father told Samoa Global News.
“My son’s stomach was soft, his ribs were not showing, telling me that the people who did this to him had broken every one of his ribs,” says Asiloto.
The 67 year old father of five was unable to hold back tears, and openly wept as he recalled the trauma he and his wife found their son in, when they arrived at Motootua National Hospital that day.
“O lona manava, ua pei se aluga le vaivai, ua leai ma se ivi e malo, ua gaui uma, o le pine faamau lena e iloa ai le matautia o le fasi sa fasi ai e nei tagata si ou atalii, a’o lea ua sau le faaiuga e solofua!..”
“Five injuries to the torso and 14 injuries of the extremities” were described in the police summary of facts.
Police Summary of Facts and Defendants’ Written Statements
According to Stanley’s submissions which were never tested in Court, Faileaso Penetito Toma was caught on video surveillance breaking into the Stanley home. Stanley says his wife was distraught when awoken by an intruder touching her leg, and the experience was worse for her because she had been subjected to sexual assault at the age of six during ‘a similar home invasion’.
According to Stanley, he gave chase to the intruder but the intruder got away. However, after viewing video surveillance of security cameras in their home, he and his father identified the intruder as Faileaso.
Stanley then “returned to the main road and aprehended the intruder.”
Faileaso who had allegedly been chased by Stanley just moments earlier, was according to Stanley, still hanging out with a friend on the main road nearby.
The intruder is described as being “visibly intoxicated”, as Stanley “led him to the porch of the house where he was questioned”.
Faileaso was beaten by Stanley in the porch and then taken into the Stanley home to be shown the video footage. When the intoxicated youth admitted it was him on the video footage, the assault began.
From the police summary of facts undisputed by the two defendants, Khamtahn Stanley slapped, kicked and punched Faileaso until he dropped to the floor.
Enter Ulugia Lalomasi Laufili who heard the comotion because he lives right next door. Ulugia states that he felt sorry for his neighbour when he heard what had happened.
“He told off the intruder and joined in the assault by punching while the intruder was still on the floor. He then grabbed a plank of wood and struck the intruder’s legs”.
“After about 5 to 10 minutes inside the house, the intruder was dragged back to the porch where Stanley continued to slap and punch the face, kicked the back and hip area of the intruder who was still on the floor shielding his face. When the intruder reached out his had, Stanley slapped it away and continued kicking and punching.”
From Murder in Nov 2019 to Manslaughter in 2020 to Intent to Cause Actual Bodily Harm in 2021
Khamtahn was suspended as a police officer in November 2019 before he was arrested and charged with murder along with his neighbour.
When the file was handed by the Samoa Police to the AG’s office for prosecution, both defendants were charged with murder.
A private prosectutor was hired by the AG to take over the case because Khamtahn Stanley was himself a prosecutor at the time of the offending.
Leinafo Taimalelagi Strickland has not offered an explanation as to why the charges were dropped from murder to manslaughter, and then to the much lesser charge of intent to cause actual bodily harm to be heard in the District Court.
Asked for a comment Attorney General Su’a Helene Wallwork-Lamb told SGN she has complete confidence that Ms Leinafo-Strickland, as independent prosecutor, is discharging her prosecutorial duties without fear or favour.
“She is an extremely competent senior counsel who is very experienced in criminal prosecutions”.
In late 2021, almost two years after the 20-year-old’s death, Khamtahn Standley and Ulugia Lalomasi Laufili were left facing one charge each of intent to cause actual bodiy harm (ABH). Actual bodily harm is defined by Samoa Police on their website as ‘slamming someone against the wall or punching resulting in minor cuts’.
Khamtahn Stanley applied and was granted a discharge without conviction and fined $500 tala by the District Court in December 2021.
In handing down a discharge without conviction for Stanley, Judge Leota Raymond Schuster also granted Ulugia Lalomasi a discharge without conviction, even though he had not applied for one.
Judge Schuster found that Stanley had been provoked and the timber used by Ulugia was a reasonable method of disciplining bad behavior in village youth.
“Though the timber was used, there was no evidence to suggest or make an assertion that Laufili used it to cause harm other than the purpose of disciplining the victim,” writes Judge Schuster is in court decision.
Judge Schuster accepted that for 27 minutes, the intruder, Faileaso Penetito Toma, was at the mercy of Stanley but states that the violence displayed was “a type of scolding or disciplining still not sufficient to cause the number and nature of the injuries.”
The Private Prosecutor then filed to appeal Judge Leota’s decision. The case went back to the Supreme Court this year, 2022, with the Prosecutor arguing that the pair should be found guilty of intent to cause actual bodily harm. Not grevious bodily harm. Not manslaughter. Not murder.
Justice Lesatele Rapi Vaai of the Supreme Court last month overturned the lower court’s decision and convictions for intent to cause actual bodily harm were confirmed against both defendants.
This week, Khamtahn Stanley is fined $3000 tala to be paid by the 30th of September. Ulugia Lalomasi Laufili was found to have contributed less to the assault and fined $500 tala.