Man charged in assault case pleads down and is sentenced
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — A 40-year-old man convicted of assaulting another man by stabbing his neck with a knife and punching him in the face multiple times is going to jail.
Tafito Matini, who has been in custody since his arrest last year, unable to post a $15,000 surety bond, has been ordered to serve 20 months at the Territorial Correctional Facility (TCF), as a condition of his 5-year probation sentence.
Matini appeared in High Court last week for sentencing. He was initially charged with first-degree assault and false imprisonment, both felonies, punishable by up to 5 years in jail, a fine of up to $5,000 or both.
But under a plea agreement with the government, Matini pled guilty to the amended count of second-degree assault. The remaining charge was dismissed. With his guilty plea, Matini admits that on Jan. 20, 2020 he knowingly caused physical injury to the victim by poking his neck with a knife. He also admits that he punched the victim’s face multiple times.
The victim told police that he was inside his Pavaiai home when Matini approached him regarding some family issues. During their conversation, a verbal argument escalated, and Matini attacked the victim.
When given a chance to speak, Matini said he is ashamed of what he did to the victim, whom he considers a brother. He apologized to the court, the government, and the community, his wife and children, and especially his family and village for his actions.
He reflected on the many months he’s spent in jail and thanked the justice system for keeping him locked up, as it was a chance for him to rebuild his life and look at what is available to him, to make himself a better person.
“All I ask for is your leniency,” a tearful Matini said to the panel of judges. “I want to go back home and rebuild my life, and to seek employment to care for my wife and children.”
Defense attorney said Matini has accepted responsibility for what he did, and he’s served over 12 months at the TCF. He said his client has learned a good lesson.
Letters of support for Mutini from members of the community, the TCF chaplain, and his church pastor were presented to the court. According to these letters, Matini is a hard working man and a friendly person within his family and village.
The defense attorney asked for probation, without any additional period of detention.
The prosecutor did not agree, pointing out that Matini has a criminal history in High Court. She asked the court to sentence Matini to what is suitable under the law.
Before rendering sentence, the court noted that the incident was sparked by a verbal disagreement that escalated to violence when the defendant took the matter into his own hands.
The court reminded Matini that he was initially charged with first-degree assault, a class A felony which carries a life sentence; however, the government agreed to amend it to the lesser charge of second degree assault, a class D felony.
The court reminded the defense attorney that his client has a criminal history in High Court, dating back to 2010. According to the court, Matini was placed on probation for 5 years in 2010 after he was convicted of second-degree assault. For that incident, Matini struck a man on the head and body six times with a folding chair.
Matini was sentenced to 5 years imprisonment and a $5,000 fine. Execution of sentence is suspended, and he is placed on probation for 5 years subject to several conditions.
He has to serve 20 months at the TCF and upon release, he is to depart the territory and remain outside of its borders for the duration of probation. This condition, however, is stayed until further order of the court.
Mutini was also ordered to pay restitution of $459 for the victim’s medical bill and a fine of $2,000.