A patched Mongrel Mob member who stabbed a 19-year-old Tauranga man in the neck in an act of revenge after his step-daughter lied about being attacked has been sentenced to life in prison.
A jury found Hiakita (George) Eruera, 39, guilty of murdering Takena Tiepa-Ranapia on November 30, 2014, at a party in Mansfield St, Ohauiti.
In Tauranga High Court yesterday Justice Christian Whata imposed a minimum non-parole period of 17 years.
Eruera received a concurrent sentence of seven years on a charge of wounding Brooklyn Ormsby-Ratahi with intent to cause grievous body harm that same night. The jury was told Eruera believed the deceased was involved in assaulting his step-daughter and sought revenge. The step-daughter falsely claimed she had been attacked by two other men, and that one of these men attempted to rape her, after she left the party. Eruera's co-accused, his wife Hyacin Eruera, and Paul Taki, were found not guilty of murder or manslaughter.
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But both were found guilty of one count of wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm, for being party to the attack on Mr Ormsby-Ratahi.
Neither took an active role in the attack but Hyacin Eruera drove the men to the Mansfield St house, and they were present during the attack.
The Crown solicitor, Greg Hollister-Jones, submitted that a life without parole was warranted given the "vigilante" actions by Eruera. The sentence could have been imposed under the three strikes law.
Among aggravating features of the incident, said Mr Hollister-Jones, were Eruera's unlawful entry into the Mansfield St home, being armed with a knife and using it to attack two people, one of whom died, and Eruera's violence convictions.
Mr Hollister-Jones urged Justice Whata to be cautious in his assessment of the extent provocation played in mitigating the seriousness of Eruera's offending and reducing his culpability.
"This is a man with clear anger problems, and his actions after his anger was ignited by his step-daughter Paris was an irrational response," he said. Counsel for Eruera, Russell Fairbrother, QC, rejected the Crown's submission that his client's actions were part of a revenge mission with murderous intent. "To label it vigilante can't be supported by the evidence ... This was a man who was reacting to a serious allegation of attempted rape but the violence escalated into something which was never originally intended, with a tragic end."
Mr Fairbrother said his client stood by his evidence that he went to the house to discuss the matter and never intended to kill Mr Tiepa-Ranapia but accepted the jury's verdict.
Life imprisonment without parole would be manifestly unjust, and grossly disproportional with sentences imposed for similar offending, he said.
During sentencing Justice Whata revealed that Eruera had nine previous convictions for violence and was on parole at the time of the murder. He had earlier been jailed for injuring a man by driving his car at him and for bludgeoning two women with a gun. Eruera was subject to a first strikes warning.
However, Justice Whata said he was satisfied this was a case of serious provocation, which allowed him to ultimately step back from imposing life imprisonment without parole, "however, it did not absolve Eruera entirely in terms of culpability, but his offending was less serious than other murders or serious violent cases which showed a cold, calculated response".
Justice Whata also took into account, that Eruera had good rehabilitation prospects and strong family support and cultural background report.
Outside court the deceased's mother Belle Ranapia who was too upset to read her own victim-impact statement to the court, said she did not know how she felt about the sentence imposed on her son's killer. "I'm still trying to take it all in," she said.
Her brother, Sid Ranapia, who had read her other son Reg Tiepa's victim impact statement to the court, said: "I was reasonably happy with the outcome, and believe it's fair to both families."
Mr Ranapia said he was comforted by the fact it would be 17 years before Eruera was eligible to apply for parole. "I'm happy with that. I think we all now do need to move on from this - both families."