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Machete attack leaves woman physically challenged and lands man in jail

Apia, SAMOA — 41-year-old man from Faleula who was convicted of attempted murder after assaulting his partner with a machete has been sentenced to 11 months in jail. Uso Taumata Bragovits also known as Auvale Taumata, brutally assaulted his female partner with a machete and the end results left her physically challenged.

According to the police summery of facts, last year October the victim and her 14-year-old son and young niece were on their way to early morning mass when the defendant attacked the victim with a machete. The defendant first struck at the victim hitting heront the back of the neck, splitting her right ear and leaving a cut extending to the right side of her face. The victim ran away from the defendant towards the church but the defendant caught up with her and struck at her the second time, hitting her on her upper back.

The police report further says that the victim fell down and the defendant struck at her the third time, again hitting her on her back. The pre-sentence report says the defendant told probation officers in the pre-sentence report that he, with the village aumaga were cutting grass in front of the church when the victim with two other ladies walked past. He called out to the victim that he wanted to talk to her but the victim swore at him, which he said humiliated him in front of the other men. He was furious with the victim and thus the reason he did what he did. He said in the pre-sentence report that at the time he was still drunk from the night before. Supreme Court Justice Mata Tuatagaloa stated that the court does not accept the version of defendant in the pre-sentence report.

“What he did to the victim is way out of proportion. As far as the court is concerned, the defendant is trying to find excuses for his ghastly and cowardly behavior.” The defendant said in the pre-sentence report that he was in a de-facto relationship with the victim but they were keeping it secret.

“I also do not accept this because if he was in a de-facto relationship with the victim living in the village, everyone in the village would know about it. De-facto or no de-facto relationship with the victim does not give him the right to do what he did,” said Tuatagaloa.

The victim who was traumatized by the attack says that she no longer feels safe. She no longer can be alone or be on her own as she thinks that the defendant would again attack her. The victim suffered scars on her back and face and this will always remind her of the savagery of the attack by the defendant, the victim told probation.

According to the police report, the victim sustained cuts on the right side of her face, ear, neck, shoulder and back. The injury on the right side of her face, split her ear and injured facial nerves and vessels; the bones in her face were also cut up and the cut on her upper back is 40centimeter wide and her middle finger also suffered a cut.

The doctors sutured the wounds on her face and back, the bones were fixed with wires and her right middle finger was amputated. The victim had facial muscle paralysis and hearing problems due to the injuries. She was admitted for recovery and post-operative care as well as consultations with a speech pathologist and social worker.

National Prosecution Attorney, Leone Su’a recommended a 12-year jail term given the circumstances of the case. While defense counsel Pa’u Mulitalo submitted that the attack by the defendant was not premeditated but was ‘coincidental.’ Mulitalo further pointed out that defendant has been banished from the village of Faleula for life and that the victim had caused false hope to the defendant by promising to marry him. The defendant is not to be solely blamed but the victim also contributed to her own fate through her conduct to please her brothers and family.

Tuatagaloa said that she finds counsel’s mitigating factors “insulting and offensive. I did not expect that Counsel who is supposedly educated to still think like a cave-man. I find counsel’s submissions as male chauvinist and worrying and, women are not safe around men who share the same thoughts as that of the defense counsel.”

She pointed out that Samoan men who act and behave like this towards women show that they do not have any respect and/or value the Samoan culture on the position and status of women in our society. “As Samoans we are proud of our culture and heritage and yet Samoan men who act and behave like this towards women makes this aspect of our culture ‘o le i’o mata o le tama le teine’ pathetic.

The court noted that domestic violence against women is not particular to one society. In Samoa, despite numerous messages and education around this issue there are still ‘men’ who see and treat women as their property. Unless and until these men change their mindset, Samoan women (and any woman for that matter) will always be vulnerable and in danger. As far as the Court is concerned, any man who causes any woman to fear for her life does not belong out in the society.

Tuatagaloa sentenced the defendant to 11 years and nine months in jail.