Auckland, NEW ZEALAND – August 10, 2021: 2.15pm (RNZI): A Tongan man who admitted punching the head of a young MMA fighter who later died in hospital has been sentenced to six months’ home detention, which the victim’s friend likens to a Covid restriction, not justice.
Ofa He Mooni Folau, 29, pleaded guilty to two charges of assaulting with intent to injure. He attacked Liufau (Fau) Vake, 25, who later died in hospital of head injuries, and his brother Ika after a night drinking in central Auckland in May this year.
“That’s not good enough for being part of an attack that took a man’s life,” Vake’s friend Dan Hooker said outside court.
“Six months, stay at home? That’s Covid restrictions,” Hooker said, who’s also an MMA fighter. “100 percent the laws have to change.”
Three others pleaded not guilty over the attack, including one charged with manslaughter. They have interim name suppression and will go to trial next year.
In sentencing today in the High Court at Auckland, Justice Robinson said Folau and others left a Symonds St bar just before three o’clock on Sunday 16 May. A scuffle ensued, but Justice Robinson noted both Vake brothers tried to back away and leave.
“After assaulting Ika [Vake], you ran towards Liufau who was being held by one of your associates nearby. You struck him three times in the head with a closed fist,” Justice Robinson said.
“Following subsequent assaults inflicted by others, Liufau was rendered unconscious. He was taken to hospital and required surgery to relieve pressure on his brain, and tragically he died nine days later.”
Hooker said it’s clear that the Vake brothers did not aggravate the situation but were trying to get away.
Photo: Instagram / Fau Vake
“That was on record in the court, that wasn’t a fight – it was an attack. It was four attacked two. The Vake brothers did nothing aggressive, didn’t say anything aggressive, were backing away the entire time, trying to escape, they were cornered. Being part of that attack, you stay at home for six months. It’s not fair, it’s not good enough,” Hooker said.
Neither the Crown nor the defence contended that Folau was responsible for Fau’s death.
Hooker disputed this. “To be part of an attack in which a man’s life is taken, and for you to not serve time in prison is an absolute joke in my opinion. Six months’ home detention – a man is dead. He’s got a daughter, he’s got a family.”
Justice Robinson said Folau said he was drunk at the time of the attack, in a pre-sentence report written for the hearing.
“You told the report writer that you didn’t recall the offending and you were shocked when you read the summary of facts describing what you’d done.
“Much of the focus of your report concerns the difficulties in dealing with alcohol while you’ve lived in New Zealand. However, under section nine of the Sentencing Act, I can’t take into account the consumption of alcohol as a mitigating factor. Put simply: being drunk is not an excuse,” Justice Robinson said.
“The report notes you haven’t consumed alcohol since the offending. It also notes the counselling you’ve undertaken through the Tupu service, a specialist provider of counselling services to help people from Pasifika communities with alcohol, drug and gambling problems.”
Folau’s lawyer Baden Meyer described the actions as a “one off aberration”, that Folau had expressed “deep regret, remorse and shame”, and the first and last time he’ll be involved in something like this.
Justice Robinson said Folau was entitled to a 25 percent discount off the sentence for pleading guilty early. The judge regarded the likelihood of Folau reoffending as low, and sentenced him to six months’ home detention.