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Fourth rugby player sentenced for assault on referee

Iopu Siolo, one of the two remaining rugby players charged in connection with the assault of a referee from Samoa during a rugby match last year, was released from jail yesterday after his sentencing.

The last defendant, Tautiaga Iuli aka Pelenato Pua aka Misi aka Barry Tautiaga is awaiting sentencing.

Before his sentencing Siolo apologized to the government, his family and the victim for his actions. He admitted he understood the consequences of his actions have led to being separated from his wife and children and added he is to blame for not being able to support his wife and children since his arrest and he is truly remorseful for his actions.  

Siolo was initially charged with first degree assault but pled guilty to second degree assault, reduced from the first degree charge.

Siolo pleaded with the court for another chance for him to return home and care for his wife and three minor children.

Siolo’s lawyer, Assistant Public Defender Leslie Cardin, told the court the defendant regretted his actions from the day in question, given that it has separated him from his family. She said that Siolo has been in custody since the incident, over ten months ago.

Cardin went to say that Siolo is a hard working man who worked for Samoa Packing for eight years until it closed down and afterwards he obtained a job in the carpentry field. She said that the defendant’s separation from his family has been hard on him and he’s learned a tough lesson.

Assistant Attorney General Cecilia Reyna moved to adopt the sentence report for a probated sentence, however the government also recommended the defendants pay restitution for the victim’s medical bills.

Chief Justice Kruse said the court has taken into account both defendants' submission and recommendations from both parties along with the probation officer’s recommendations.

Kruse sentenced Siolo to five years in jail with execution of sentencing suspended. Siolo was placed on probation with the condition he serve 20 months in jail with credit for time already served and the remaining time will be stayed. Siolo was ordered to pay restitution of $1,000 and a fine of $2,000. Kruse explained the fine should be paid within six months after his release but the restitution should be paid immediately to the court’s registry.

Siolo was also ordered not to attend any rugby games or consume alcohol, to remain a law abiding citizen, attend and successfully complete anger management courses and visit probation regularly during his five years probation.

Another condition is that he should be gainfully employed within six months after his release.

Kruse then moved to continue sentencing for Tautiaga next week, awaiting information from Immigration.

Kruse noted the defendant's three “sets of names” obtained from Immigration office records and ordered government to assist the probation office in finding out the  history of the defendant’s immigration records. He said it appears the defendant is a seasonal rugby player who came into the territory on a 30 day permit and then did not return to Samoa. “The court would like to know how these things happen,” said Kruse.

Kruse ordered the government to release Tautiaga’s passport to the probation officer adding this was a headache for the court’s management system.

Accompanying Kruse on the bench was Associate Judge Fa’amausili Pomele.

Tautiaga was initially charged with first degree assault but entered into a plea deal with the government and pled guilty to second degree assault.

Tautiaga apologized to the court, his family, the village of Leone and the victim Ponifasio Vasa for his actions. The defendant pleaded with the court for a chance to return home. Tautiaga’s lawyer Marshall Ashley told the court his client had already served ten months in jail and asked the court for a probated sentence.

Ashley added that the defendant has asked to be released so he can return home to Samoa, given that his immigration status is illegal.

Co-defendants in this matter, Pelenato Puautolu, Fuata’i Tago and Pene Wells, have already pled guilty to second degree assault.

According to government’s case, it was during a rugby game where Ponifasio Vasa was the referee that the defendants assaulted him over a call he made on the field.

 The referee was hospitalized for about a week with injuries he sustained in the assault.