A man who admitted punching mixed martial arts fighter Lifau Tu’iha’aingana Vake, known as Fau Vake, and his brother in a fatal attack has been sentenced to six months of home detention for each of two charges, to be served concurrently.
The MMA fighter and his brother Ika Vake were attacked by four other men in the early hours of May 16 on Symonds St in Auckland’s CBD.
Folau, Siofillisi Paongo, Semisie Pomale and a fourth man who has name suppression had just left the Edinburgh Castle bar just before 3am.
Fau Vake died from his injuries at Auckland City Hospital nine days later.
Ofa Folau, 29, pleaded guilty to two representative charges of assault with intent to injure in June.
Folau was involved in the early stages of the attack but is not responsible for Vake’s death, the court heard.
“The Crown doesn’t allege you are responsible but it is likely he received similar injuries from your assault,” said Justice Michael Robinson.
Folau chased Ika Vake and “advanced” on him, backing him into an alcove of a shop, the court heard.
He then punched him in the head with his left hand using an enclosed fist, then took hold of him and struck him a second time in the head, using an enclosed fist, the court heard.
He then ran towards Fau Vake, who was being held by another man, and struck him three times in the head with a closed fist.
Fau Vake’s injuries included concussion, cuts, bruising and abrasions.
“It seems highly likely you contributed to these injuries,” Justice Robinson said.
The Vake brothers did not throw any punches themselves, they were not the “aggressors”, Crown lawyer Claire Paterson said.
There was no “self defence” motivating the conduct of the defendants, she said, and it was possibly “only sheer luck” that Folau’s punches were not more fatal.
Folau appeared at the High Court in Auckland this morning in front of members of the public including UFC fighter Dan Hooker.
Alcohol abuse was the primary cause of Folau’s offending and he is actively seeking treatment, the court heard.
Justice Robinson said he accepts Folau’s genuine remorse but said “being drunk” is not an excuse.
Fau Vake was mourned by hundreds at his funeral at the Free Wesleyan Church of Tonga Tuingapapai in Favona, South Auckland, and by the MMA community.
There was a huge outpouring of support from the City Kickboxing community, where Vake trained.
A man charged with manslaughter, who has name suppression, has pleaded not guilty.
Semisie Pomale and Siofillisi Paongo, charged with common assault, have also pleaded not guilty. Their interim name suppression lapsed last month.
Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) competitor Dan Hooker said Folau’s sentencing is “an absolute joke” when speaking to media outside the High Court in Auckland.
“To be part of an attack in which a man’s life was taken and for you to not serve time in prison is an absolute joke in my opinion.
“A man is dead. He’s got a daughter, he’s got a family.”
Hooker said six months’ home detention is not a fair punishment.
“That was not a fight. That was an attack. Four attacked two Vake brothers who did nothing aggressive … were backing away the entire time, trying to escape.
“It’s not fair, you can’t tell me that’s fair and that’s justice, that’s not justice.”
Hooker said he does not accept that Folau did not have responsibility for Vake’s death.
“Of course he’s part of it. Four attacked two, how are you not an aggravating factor?”
He said New Zealand’s sentencing laws have to change.
Ofa Folau moved to New Zealand from Tonga in 2013. He is a father of a young son.
The court heard how Folau has acknowledged the shame he has brought on his family and his partner’s family by being involved in the attack.
He claimed he did not recall the offending and was “shocked” when he learned what he had done, Justice Robinson said.
Folau has not consumed alcohol since the attack, the court heard.
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