2 hotel security guard attackers get life behind bars

  • Natisha Tautalatasi enters a not guilty plea to attempted murder in the beating of a hotel security guard Friday 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)
  • Wesley Samoa appears Friday in Circuit Court for a motion for a new trial. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

KAILUA-KONA — In an emotionally charged courtroom, three individuals were sentenced Friday for their role in the vicious beating of a hotel security guard.

Wesley Samoa and Natisha Tautalatasi were found guilty on June 25 of attempted second-degree murder and Lama Lauvao was convicted of first-degree assault in the brutal assault on security guard John Kanui caught on surveillance video in September 2018.

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On Friday, Circuit Court Judge Melvin Fujino sentenced Samoa and Tautalatasi to life in prison with the possibility of parole. Lauvao was sentenced to 10 years incarceration.

The convictions stem from an incident that occurred early Sept. 17, 2018, when Samoa, Tautalatasi, and Lauvao allegedly got into an altercation with Kanui while in the parking lot at the Kona Seaside Hotel off Palani Road.

Hotel video surveillance of the incident shows Samoa, Tautalatasi and Lauvao along with a fourth person, later identified as Mahealani Kanehailua, chatting outside the hotel when the security guard pulls up in a golf cart. After what appeared to be an exchange of words, the video shows the three suspects pull the guard out of the cart and repeatedly kick and punch him in the head, back and stomach.

Kanehailua, of Kona, was indicted in November by a Big Island grand jury on charges of attempted first-degree hindering prosecution in connection with the September incident. She was acquitted of the charge following a bench trial in May before Fujino.

Following the assault, Kanui was airlifted to The Queen’s Medical Center on Oahu. He suffered a cervical spine fracture. The 63-year-old was later moved to a mainland hospital for further treatment.

Samoa’s attorney, Barry Sooalo, as he did during trial, again tried to shift blame to the victim on Friday, saying that Kanui had a part in the assault and “it takes two to tango.”

However, Samoa told the court in his statement that Sooalo was “a bad attorney.” He asked to have a court-appointed attorney represent him at his appeal, noting Sooalo has drained his family’s finances. He also offered an apology to the Kanui family.

Samoa’s mother got down on her hands and knees begged the court for leniency for her son.

In a rambling statement, Tautalatasi apologized to the Kanui family and asked for mercy for herself, Lavao and Samoa. Lauvao also apologized to the Kanui family and took full responsibility for his actions.

Kanui’s family related how the beating affected them and how the man they knew and loved has been changed forever.

Kanui’s daughter, Jennifer Farrell, said she thought the sentence the three received was fair.

“It’s a sad situation for both families,” she said, adding that it is hard to forgive the trio for what they did. “I struggle to believe they are remorseful.”

Before handing down his sentence, Fujino said that Tautalatasi was the worst one in the beating, noting that Kanui was on the ground and she just kept on beating him.

Fujino noted all of the letters of support he received on Samoa’s behalf but was bound to sentence him to life because of the conviction.

Fujino stated that Samoa, Tautalatasi and Lavao all contributed to Kanui’s injuries, all three were intoxicated and all three have a history in the criminal justice system.

Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Chase Murray was pleased with the verdict and sentencing.

“We are glad the Kanui family got justice,” he said.

The Hawaii Paroling Authority within six months will set the actual minimum term that Samoa, Tautalatasi and Lavao will have to serve before becoming eligible for parole.

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Kanui, who served 20 years with the Hawaii National Guard, remains paralyzed in a 24-hour care facility on the mainland.

Speaking about her father, Farrell said, “he’s serving a life sentence in his chair.”