Appeal finds Samoa Land and Titles judge guilty in assault case — expected to step down
Apia, SAMOA — Land and Titles Court Judge Fepulea’i Atilla Ropati is expected to step down from his position in the judiciary after a five-member Court of Appeal reversed the decision of a lower court and convicted him for hitting a man over the head with a bottle twice and punching him.
The decision from the appellate court was handed down late Monday afternoon.
Before the matter was taken to the court of appeals, it was heard in the District Court and Supreme Court numerous times.
Those proceedings ended in a discharge without conviction for Fepulea’i.
The Attorney General’s Office appealed the decision asking the Court of Appeal to convict the Land and Titles Court President.
The AG’s Office also sought prison time but the Court of Appeal gave him none.
Instead, Fepulea’i was ordered to pay a $SAT7,000 fine, $SAT2,000 is restitution for the victim who was badly injured when the defendant hit him on the head with a beer bottle – twice. He also punched the victim, a security guard.
Fepulea’i hit the victim so hard, the glass bottle shattered on the victim’s head.
Last week, Justice Rhys Harrison noted that there were “three acts of violence” and that the judge who discharged the defendant without conviction “didn’t give those factors any weight or thought.”
Presiding in the case were: Justice Robert L. Fisher, Justice Graham Ken Panckhurst, Justice Harrison, Justice Vui Clarence Nelson and Justice Mata Keli Tuatagaloa.
“In this appeal we have imposed a conviction and we have imposed a fine of five thousand tala and ordered reparations of two thousand tala. This is serious violence by a senior judge. In the District Court, the judge had discharged the respondent subject to certain conditions without a conviction,” said Justice Fisher when he delivered the appellate court’s decision.
The appeals court found that the judge unintentionally “understated the seriousness of the offense and of the injury that resulted” and that “a conviction was unavoidable.”