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Man originally charged with child abuse pleads guilty to felony assault

American Samoa High Court building

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — A 45-year-old man accused of punching a 16-year-old boy and then striking the boy with a piece of lumber has entered into a plea agreement with the government.

Tipasa Laulu who has been in custody since his arrest, unable to post a $10,000 surety bond appeared in court last week for a Change of Plea hearing.

Laulu was initially charged with one count of abuse of a child and one count of assault in the second degree, both class D felonies that carry a jail term of up to 5 years, a fine of $5,000 or both; and third degree assault, a class A misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment of up to one year, a fine of up to $1,000 or both.

But under a plea agreement with the government, accepted by the court, Laulu pled guilty to the felony charge of 2nd degree assault.

With his guilty plea, Laulu admits that on Nov. 2, 2019 he punched a 16-year-old boy, causing injuries to his face, before he grabbed a board and struck the boy’s head causing severe injuries.

The case was reported to the Tafuna Police Substation (TPS) when the victim’s father called police for assistance, after his son ran to their house covered in blood and seeking help.

Laulu was apprehended and taken to TPS. Investigators say he reeked of alcohol.

During questioning, the victim said he was talking to his friend (defendant’s niece) at the defendant’s home and "he was surprised to see the defendant walking towards him with a piece of lumber. The boy claims the defendant "punched and hit" him, and he "became scared" and that's when he ran home for help.

According to the victim's father, who is also the defendant’s neighbor, he saw Laulu approaching his son. He said Laulu punched his son "several times" and then hit his son with the piece of lumber.

Sentencing is set for November.