Former Samoan international rugby player Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu has hit out against media coverage of the Filipo case saying the facts were "slanted and exaggerated" at the player's expense.
The outspoken player and lawyer slammed the coverage by media on his Facebook page saying the reporting of the pre-sentencing indication for Losi Filipo over his involvement in an altercation with four people in the early hours of October 11 last year was a "horribly slanted exaggerated version of the case to sensationalise at the expense of Filipo and his family".
Filipo was discharged without conviction for assaulting four people, causing an outcry from his victims. Police have now appealed the sentence.
Fuimaono-Sapolu said coverage of the case implied Filipo had initiated the fight whereas Judge Bruce Davidson's notes said the young player had responded.
"The genesis of the incident is not entirely clear but what is clear enough is just how the defendant responded," the pre-sentencing indication said.
He also took issue with one of the female victims telling other media Filipo had punched them when the Judge's exact words were "that they are more in the nature of pushing and shoving of each of them".
"The two charges of assault on a female, apart from the fact they involve young ladies, are not particularly serious in themselves," the judge also said.
Fuimaono-Sapolu added that while a media organisation reported that conventional sentencing would demand a starting point of at least 1½ years imprisonment, it did not include the mitigating factors.
"But then they miss out the big paragraph immediately following [outlining] all the mitigating factors as to why, in conventional sentencing, Filipo would not go to jail."
The mitigating factors which the judge mentioned included Filipo's age as he was only 17 at the time, his lack of previous convictions, his remorse, willingness to undergo restorative justice, his commitment to counselling and voluntary community work and the large community support which suggested an unlikelihood of Filipo ever reoffending.
Fuimaono-Sapolu also took issue with the original story focusing on the discharge being because Filipo was a rugby player when the judge highlighted that rugby was a professional career just like a career in law, medicine or the police force.
"He [the judge] only wrote 1 short paragraph about Filipo's potential rugby career and another paragraph explaining it is not the rugby that is important, it's the possible career. A potential career in anything is considered."
Fuimaono-Sapolu ended his post saying he felt compelled to post some of the paragraphs because "you ain't going to get it if you leave it with the white media outlets".
Another Wellington rugby player has also complained to the media outlet - which defended its coverage - via its Facebook page about the discrepancies between the victims' reported comments and the judge's statements.