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New Trial Ordered for 3 in Beating of Kona Seaside Hotel Security Guard

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The Circuit Court of Appeals has ordered a new trial for three people convicted and sentenced in the 2018 assault of a security guard at the Kona Seaside Hotel.

The appeals court ruled on Sept. 9 that the 3rd Circuit Court erred during the trial of Wesley Samoa, Natisha Tautalatasi and Lama Lauvao when it allowed the state to submit video of the victim, John Kanui, from the hospital following testimony of his condition.

According to the appeals court findings, the “graphic nature of Kanui’s disability depicted in the video would create an ‘undue tendency to suggest decision on an improper basis’ due to the emotional and sympathetic response the video would evoke in an average viewer.”

The assault of Kanui was captured on hotel surveillance just after midnight on Sept. 17, 2018. The footage shows Kanui responding to a group of individuals, later identified to be Samoa, Tautalatasi and Lauvao, in the hotel parking lot. According to testimony in court, Kanui was responding to a noise complaint.

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What started as a verbal argument between Samoa, Tautalatasi and Lauvao and the security guard Kanui escalated to an assault. The hotel surveillance footage presented in court shows the three people beating the security guard.

Kanui suffered from closed traumatic brain injury and a broken neck that resulted in paralysis. He died in 2020 on the mainland where he was receiving continued medical care. He was 65 years old.

Following a jury trial, Samoa and Tautalatasi were convicted of second-degree attempted murder, and Lauvao was convicted of first-degree assault. On Sept. 13, 2019, Circuit Court Judge Melvin Fujino sentenced Samoa and Tautalatasi to life in prison with the possibility of parole, and Lauvao was sentenced to 10 years incarceration.

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A new trial date has not been set.

Tiffany DeMasters
Tiffany DeMasters is a reporter for Big Island Now. Tiffany worked as the cops and courts reporter for West Hawaii Today from 2017 to 2019. She also contributed stories to Ke Ola Magazine and Honolulu Civil Beat.
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