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Defendant in landlord-tenant squabble takes a plea

District Court Judge Fiti Sunia


The owner of the rental unit in Leone who was charged and convicted of assaulting a 50-year-old woman and her daughter who rented the unit, was sentenced by District Court Judge Fiti Sunia to 12 months probation.

Melody Afoa was initially charged with 2nd degree assault, a class D felony; and 3rd degree assault, a class A misdemeanor.

The felony charge was dismissed during a preliminary examination (PX) hearing last week, after the government attorney informed the court that they were not prepared to call a witness for the PX.

Immediately after the dismissal of the felony charge, the prosecutor informed the court that the government has filed a new criminal complaint against Afoa, charging her with 3rd degree assault, a class A misdemeanor.

Afoa appeared in court last Friday for her pretrial conference; however, when her case was called, prosecutor Woodrow Pengelly informed the court that they reached a plea agreement with the defendant, whereby Afoa agreed to plead guilty to 3rd degree assault.

With her guilty plea, Afoa admits that on June 7, 2018 in Leone, she assaulted a 50-year-old woman who was renting her home by hitting her with a piece of lumber. Afoa admits she struck the victim twice, first in the shoulder and then on her left palm, causing it to swell.

The government claims the victim was taken to the LBJ Hospital for treatment immediately after the assault. An x-ray revealed she had a dislocated shoulder joint. She was kept overnight and discharged the next afternoon.

Defense attorney Ryan Anderson requested a probated sentence, saying Afoa is a first time offender and she is a suitable candidate for probation.

The government echoed the defense’s submission, saying there were no life threatening injuries to the victim and her daughter as a result of the incident. The prosecutor however asked the court to order Afoa to pay restitution of $82, and for her to attend anger management counseling.

In delivering his decision, Sunia noted that the incident for which Afoa was convicted escalated from a rental dispute. He said despite the fact that the victim and her daughter were both injured as a result, it appears from the affidavit that it was the victim's son’s action that started the whole thing.

Sunia said the victim’s son was angry about the power being turned off by Afoa; he then began flipping tables inside the house, making holes in the walls.

“Was the victim’s son charged?” Sunia asked. Pengelly said no.

Afoa was sentenced to 12 months probation, subject to several conditions that include paying a $100 fine and remaining law abiding.

Pengelly reminded to the court the government’s recommendation that Afoa pay restitution of $82, which includes $42 for the EMS transport and a hospital fee of $40 for both the victim and her daughter.

Sunia paused for a moment and said, “Nah, the court will not order restitution. Let the government figure that out in small claims.”