Defendant takes the stand in hotel security guard beating case

  • Natisha Tautalatasi at the second day of testimony in the attempted murder trial in Circuit Court. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
  • Wesley Samoa at the second day of testimony in the attempted murder trial in Circuit Court. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

  • Lama Lauvao takes the stand in his own defense at the attempted murder trial Wednesday in Circuit Court. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

KEALAKEKUA — One of three people charged in the attempted murder of a hotel security guard took the stand Wednesday, telling jurors he was inebriated and never intended to kill the man during the Sept. 17 incident.

Lama Lauvao — who along with Wesley Samoa and Natisha Tautalatasi, is on trial for attempted second-degree murder in connection with a beating at the Kona Seaside Hotel that critically injured security guard, John Kanui — testified in his own defense.

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“I wasn’t in the right when I kicked him. Kanui grabbed my wife and I hit him. I kicked him again. I made very poor decisions. I was not trying to kill him, I was very angry and was drinking all day,” he told the court upon questioning by his attorney, Andrew Kennedy.

Lauvao continued his testimony, “I’ve seen what condition he is in now and am definitely not happy with what happened. I pray for this man and his family. I want to find peace between myself and his family, I am a man of faith.”

Lauvao recounted the defendants’ activities leading up to the incident at the hotel that night, telling the court that he, Tautalatasi, Samoa and Mahealani Kanehailua had spent the afternoon at a family barbecue at Old Kona Airport Park before taking the party to Samoa’s parent’s home until approximately 10:30 p.m. At that point, he testified, they left for Sam’s Hideaway.

After deciding they’d had enough alcohol for the day, Lauvao said they left the bar around 11:45 p.m.

As the surveillance video was played again for the court, Lauvao explained what happened after they arrived at the hotel.

He testified that he was trying to get between his fiancée, Tautalatasi, and Kanui to defuse a verbal confrontation between the two.

Things got out of hand, he said, when Kanui pulled Tautalatasi into the cart with him as he fell back.

But, Lauvao said he was trying to prevent anything from happening because of the amount of alcohol consumed by the group that day.

“It all happened very quickly. I made poor choices that night,” he said, before the court broke for the day with jury trial to resume today.

Prior to Lauvao, Kennedy’s lone witness, taking the stand, three physicians who treated Kanui after his beating at the Kona Seaside Hotel testified to the extent of the victim’s injuries.

Marisa Hori was the emergency room physician at Kona Community Hospital when Kanui was brought in for treatment. She said that Kanui was in critical condition and unresponsive when she first assessed him. A CAT scan showed a subdural hematoma on the brain, orbital fracture and a broken neck.

“He was at risk of death and on life support at the hospital,” said Hori.

Asked what could cause such an injury she replied “high velocity impact.”

Hori indicated that Kanui needed a higher level of care than Kona Community Hospital could provide and had him transferred to The Queen’s Medical Center on Oahu for further treatment.

Matthew Koenig, a neurologist at Queen’s, testified that Kanui’s spinal cord injury resulted in permanent quadriplegia and he suffered strokes as a result of the injury.

A video of Kanui at Craig Hospital in Denver was played for the jury while his daughter, Jennifer Farrell, was on the stand. It showed Kanui being hoisted by a lift in order to be placed in a wheelchair. He showed limited movement in his biceps but no ability to move his extremities.

Hawaii Police Department officer Leonard Warren took the stand next. He stated that when he arrived at the hotel on Sept. 17, he encountered an angry and agitated Samoa.

“We didn’t do anything … he started it. He deserved what he got, he deserved what happened to him,” Warren stated that Samoa told him.

The prosecution then rested.

Tautalatasi’s attorney William Reece, who did not make an opening statement on Tuesday, began the defense portion of the trial with his statement.

He said that Tautalatasi had no recollection of what happened that night and when she viewed the surveillance video, she was horrified to see what happened.

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The day ended following Lauvao’s testimony. Trial continues today in Kona Circuit Court Judge Melvin Fujino’s courtroom. Tautalatasi is expected to take the stand in her defense.

If convicted of attempted second-degree murder, each faces life imprisonment with the possibility of parole and up to a $50,000 fine.

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