Chief Justice Michael Kruse says the case of a man who savagely beat to death another man following a drinking binge highlights the problem of alcohol in the territory, and that the government needs to be “more proactive” in enforcement of law.
Kruse’s statement was made yesterday during sentencing of 32-year old Eperone Tipasae, accused in the beating death of Alapati Naisati, which occurred Apr. 10 of last year at a bus stop in Lepuapua.
According to a court affidavit, a hospital physician told police that the victim suffered “extensive and multiple head, neck and mouth injuries.” Additionally, the left side of the victim’s face was “extremely swollen and bruised” and the victim had a two-inch laceration above his left eye, bruises on his forehead and missing teeth.
Tipasae was initially charged with one count each of first-degree murder and first degree assault but under a plea agreement with the government in March this year, the defendant pled guilty to second degree murder and assault in the third degree.
During sentencing Kruse said the defendant earlier this year had “admitted to savagely” beating another person and later returned to administer another beating that resulted in the victim’s death.
Kruse pointed out that the Probation Office believes that the background of the defendant is very good, and that he was good to his parents and his siblings. However, he said the Probation Office also believes this incident occurred due to “binge drinking” by the defendant and this was the only explanation for the reason that such an assault occurred.
“This case highlights the problem of alcohol in the territory,” said Kruse, who added that “alcohol is not a mitigating circumstance” in this case.
He told the court that this is an issue, which District Court Judge John Ward II has often spoken about. Kruse said the government’s Alcoholic Beverage and Control board needs to “be more proactive” in enforcement of alcohol issues.
For second degree murder, the defendant was sentenced to 30 years imprisonment and 5 years imprisonment for the assault charge and both are to “run concurrent”, said Kruse.
Sentencing for Tipasae, who has been in custody since his arrest, initially started in late May this year, when the victim’s sister told the court that the “brutal beating” of her brother showed “no mercy” and that her mother has never been the same since then.
The defendant’s attorney, Public Defender Ruth Risch-Fuatagavi and Assistant Attorney General Mitzie Jessop Folau also addressed the court at the time, but sentencing was never completed because of a discrepancy in the charges to which the defendant pled guilty.
Both the defense and prosecution didn’t have anything new to add at yesterday’s sentencing.
According to a court affidavit, Tipasae punched the victim in the face and the “victim fell on the ground and the defendant started kicking the victim and stomping him in the face.”
After the assault, Tipasae left the scene and went elsewhere and later returned to find the victim still on the ground from the first assault. He then resumed punching the victim again by first pulling the victim up by his hair, the affidavit states.
When questioned by police, Tipasae admitted that he assaulted the victim by punching him several times in the face.
The victim tried to get up but the defendant continued to assault him and he also admitted to kicking the victim in the head several times as well as in the facial area, the affidavit also states.