FARMINGTON—The 2nd District Court was packed last Wednesday with family and friends of both the defendant and the victim to hear sentencing in a beating case in Bountiful that left Sione Mangisi dead.
“I never thought in a million years that Sione was going to die that day,” said Heneli Kalainisi Kaufusi, the defendant. “I was crushed to pieces when I heard he had died. I want to tell his family I’m sorry. I never meant to hurt him like that.”
Kaufusi pleaded guilty Feb. 1 to one count of manslaughter and one count of aggravated assault resulting in serious bodily injury. He had been charged with first-degree murder for the incident that took place in October 2015. Mangisi died from his injuries after witnesses said they saw the men fighting in front of a house Kaufusi shared with the victim’s ex-wife and children.
The defendant’s attorney Ed Brass asked the judge to consider parole in lieu of prison. “No one disputes this was a tragedy,” he said. “There was history between Mr. Kaufusi and the victim. They never got along. In my mind this started as self- defense. He had a firearm available. He could have used it but he didn’t. He wanted to protect his own children. It was a violent altercation that went too far.”
Several family members spoke on Kaufusi’s behalf before the judge imposed his sentence including his wife Stacy.
“It’s been a very difficult time for us,” she said. “It has been a tragedy. There is nothing we can do to bring back Sione. We have to focus on the children. There are five in the home and they are truly suffering. I beg of you today to possibly let him out on probation. Protection is his weakness. He is kind and loving. He’s taken complete responsibility for what has happened.”
Members of the victim’s family also addressed the judge. “I forgive you,” said Mangisi’s sister. “Both sides have lost. I lost my brother and your family lost a son. A terribly egregious act has happened. Judge, send him to prison.”
“Sione was an amazing father,” said another relative. “He was an all around great example for people to follow. The same could be said about Heneli. This could have gone the other way. One is enclosed six feet under and the other the door is still open. All he wanted to do was see his kids. Every father deserves the right to be with his kids. There is a limit to that type of rage. You need to know when enough is enough. As a brother, I forgive you but actions have consequences, 15 months to me is not justice.”
The victim’s mother also spoke on her son’s behalf. “When this happened it ruined my health and my life,” she said. “I believe in forgiveness. I forgive you Heneli for killing my son. I ask the good Lord to be the final judge because I can’t judge.”
Prosecuting attorney Brandon Poll reviewed the witness statements describing in some detail the beating that left Mangisi dead, including exhibits of a shoe print left on the head and neck of the victim.
“He surpassed the limit and then some,” Poll told the judge. “The state never said it was intended, but it is recklessness toward human life. He had a chance to stop. He left several times and returned to reengage with a vulnerable, nonresponsive individual. Self-defense no longer existed. Prison is appropriate.”
Ultimately, Judge John R. Morris sentenced Kaufusi to two terms of 1 to 15 years in prison for one count of manslaughter and one count of aggravated assault. He ordered the sentences to run concurrently.
“This is a tragedy,” Morris said. “Whatever I do there are no winners – only losers today.”