For attempted murder, first degree assault, man receives 30 years, suspended
Sitau Ofoia Jr, who was convicted of second degree attempted murder and two counts of first degree assault following a jury trial last month — on allegations that he struck his brother-in-law with his car and then struck him with a cricket bat — was sentenced to 40 months in jail, as part of his 10-year probated sentence.
The first degree assault counts are each class A felonies, which are punishable from 10-30 years in jail, or life imprisonment; while the attempted murder charge carries a jail term of five to 15 years in jail.
Sentencing was handed down by Associate Justice Lyle L Richmond and Associate Judges Mamea Sala Jr and Muasau Tasina Tofili. The defendant was represented by Assistant Public Defender Mike White while prosecuting was Assistant Attorney General Julie Pasquale.
Last week the defendant apologized to the court, the government, his village of Vaitogi, his church, his family and the victim, who is his brother-in-law. He then pleaded with the court for a second chance.
Assistant Attorney General Julie Pasquale told the court that although the court heard about a lot of Ofoia's good deeds in the past (during his family members' testimonies), yet the defendant also has a bad side.
She noted the defendant had been convicted of second degree assault in 2009 for which he was jailed for 20 months and was on probation for five years. While on probation, he committed another crime and is again before the court. Pasquale concluded by recommending the court impose the maximum penalty allowable under the law for the defendant.
Richmond noted the defendant has the support of his families and village and the court has no doubt that he’s remorseful, however, this does not take away the seriousness of the extensive force used in this matter.
He then sentenced the defendant to 10 years for each first degree assault and 10 years for the attempted murder count totaling 30 years. Richmond further noted that because the charges stem from the same incident, the sentencing will run concurrently, however execution of sentencing was suspended on the conditions the defendant must serve 40 months in jail and undergo anger management counseling and alcohol counseling.
The defendant was also ordered not to congregate with those under the influence of alcohol, or enter any bars or taverns, and he’ll be subject to random testing. Richmond also informed the defendant that he’s eligible to file an appeal with the court for the jury’s verdict.
During the jury trial, witnesses said that Ofoia, after drinking with the victim and other relatives and friends at the airport's Island Hut Restaurant, in the early morning hours of Apr. 8, 2012, got into an argument with the victim, after which the victim then proceeded to walk toward his home in Vaitogi.
Witnesses say that Ofoia got mad and then took the truck from his wife (the victim’s sister), who had come to pick them up and turned the truck around and drove the wrong way and struck the victim with his truck.
At that point, Ofoia stopped his truck, got out, and grabbed a cricket bat from the truck, then hit the victim's head with the bat while the victim was lying on the road motionless. He then drove off, leaving the victim on the road.
After the verdict was read in court, presiding Justice Lyle Richmond dismissed the Jury and remanded Ofoia into custody.
According to the government’s case when police interviewed Ofoia about the incident, he told them he was driving when a male suddenly crossed in front of his car and he tried to avoid a collision by swerving, however he struck the young man. He said when he exited his vehicle, he found out it was his brother-in-law. Police impounded the vehicle, along with the bat alleged to have been used in the alleged assault.