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Retrial ordered for 3 in Kona Hotel Assault, Daughter of Victim: ‘My Heart Hurts’

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John Kanui (PC: Go Fund Me page)

After learning the Intermediate Court of Appeals had ordered a new trial for three people convicted and sentenced of brutally beating her father at a Kona hotel and leaving him with injuries that led to his death, Jen Farrell said: “My heart hurts.”

In 2018, Farrell’s dad, John Kanui, was working as a security guard at the Kona Seaside Hotel when he was assaulted by Wesley Samoa, Natisha Tautalatasi and Lama Lauvao. The beating, which was captured on hotel security camera footage, left Kanui paralyzed. He died two years later at age 65.

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

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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.”

Farrell said this Saturday marks the 4th anniversary or her dad’s assault.

“I don’t agree with the decision to overturn their conviction,” she told Big Island Now on Tuesday. “It’s wrong. The video demonstrated how their poor drunken actions negatively impacted my dad’s physical and mental state.”

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Samoa and Tautalatasi were convicted of second-degree attempted murder, and Lauvao was convicted of first-degree assault by jury in 2019. 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.

Farrell said the thought of a whole new trial is re-traumatizing.

“The defendants’ choices ended my dad’s life that day in more ways than one,” she said. “They are not remorseful. The day of the assault, the video; it haunts me.”

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Hawai‘i County Prosecuting Attorney Kelden Waltjen said his office was frustrated and disappointed by the Intermediate Court of Appeals’ opinion in the case.

“This decision will not deter our office from seeking justice for him and his family,” Waltjen said.

Waltjen explained all three defendants raised appeals, which is common in cases where individuals are convicted by jury trial. He added prosecutors are reviewing the court’s opinion and is considering their options to challenge the decision, including seeking judicial review from the Hawai‘i Supreme Court.

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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