Three Southland Shark basketballers are deciding whether to ask the courts not to convict them despite pleading guilty to violent attacks outside New Plymouth's Crowded House Bar last month. After leaving their victims unconscious, broken and bloodied, Leon Henry, 28, Reuben Te Rangi, 19, and Shea Ili, 21, fled back to their hotel in the early hours of May 25.
In the New Plymouth District Court yesterday, the men, through their lawyers, Susan Hughes QC, for Te Rangi and Ili, and Paul Keegan, for Henry, asked Judge Geoffrey Ellis not to enter convictions on the five counts to allow time to decide if a case would be made for discharges without conviction.
After police caught up with them, the three were charged with a total of five assaults against the bar staff and others in the early hours of May 25.
Only hours before the debacle, the basketballers had been part of the winning team which beat the Taranaki Mountain Airs in the final minutes by 83-81.
The most serious charge, injuring with intent to injure, attracts a maximum five-year prison sentence.
The three have clean records which could keep them out of jail.
Henry admitted two counts of injuring with intent and assault with intent to injure.
Ili pleaded guilty to assault with intent and common assault while Te Rangi admitted assault with intent to injure.
The police summaries show that earlier in the night Henry, who was unhappy that his team members were refused entry at various bars, had become abusive.
He was warned by police to behave.
Matters boiled over about 2.30am when they were refused entry to Crowded House by doorman Terry Ngaia.
Henry argued and walked off only to return a few minutes later.
He approached Ngaia, apologised and shook his hand then, without warning, punched Ngaia in the face with a closed fist knocking him to the ground.
A scuffle immediately developed between Henry, the two other basketballers and members of the public.
He was seen to punch an unknown person twice, the summary says.
Henry then went up to another bar staff member Kieren Johansen, punching him in the jaw from behind knocking him unconscious.
Henry turned back to Ngaia who got to his feet only to be knocked down to the ground by Te Rangi.
Henry grabbed the prone Ngaia pulled him toward himself before kicking him in the head.
Ngaia suffered cuts, abrasions and bruising on his face and head while Johansen suffered a sore jaw after being knocked unconscious for a short time.
Ili was approached by bar manager Maxwell O'Leary who came out and tried to break up the scuffle.
Ili pulled away and on to the roadway before rushing forward and punching O'Leary with a closed fist in the chest causing O'Leary to fall to knees.
Ili then approached another bar staff member Jackie Miller who was holding a person involved in the scuffle.
Ili kicked Miller striking him in the head and tried to kick him again but missed.
O'Leary suffered bruising to his sternum and soreness on his back. Miller suffered bruising on his face and body.
Te Rangi punched another bouncer during the melee and punched Ngaia twice in the head, knocking him to the ground. Te Rangi also stomped on Ngaia, who was already on the ground after Henry had kicked him.
When members the public and security staff from nearby bars intervened, Henry, Ili and Te Rangi ran off to their hotel.
The judge bailed the three to return to court for sentencing on August 1.
No convictions were entered but the judge ordered full pre-sentence reports, including electronically monitored penalties. The judge gave no indication what the sentencing outcome might be. Bail conditions for Henry were changed to allow for his relocation from Invercargill to Wellington.
NO INTEREST IN APOLOGY
The Crowded House staff involved in the attack said they are not interested in hearing an apology from their attackers.
Yesterday about 15 bar staff and supporters sat in the public gallery of the New Plymouth District Court to hear the three basketballers in the dock plead guilty to a total of five assaults.
In court, the trio's lawyers, Susan Hughes, QC and Paul Keegan, asked for time for their clients to approach their victims to attempt a restorative justice conference.
Outside court after the short hearing, the Crowded House group said they had together decided against attending a restorative justice meeting with their attackers.
"The incident was foul enough so why would we let them talk their way out of it?" bar manager Max O'Leary said.
An angry Jack Miller, 38, is still on crutches as a result of the attack, his foot in a moon boot for another two weeks.
The former Crowded House worker had been working 70 hours a week as a truck driver "and now I'm doing nothing and only got 80 per cent of my income which is bullshit".
He saw a meeting as a waste of time and he did not trust himself not to leap across the table to take his own action against them.
"I'd just get in trouble with them."
Terry Ngaia, 41, was punched, kicked and stomped on.
He said the basketballers had lost it because he wouldn't let them into the bar "because they were causing trouble at the other bars".
Ngaia said he had been socialising with his son at Our Place just before starting work at Crowded House and saw one giving the bouncer there a hard time, calling him a "bitch".
"I jumped in to defuse the situation. He stormed off down the road.
"So I told him he wasn't coming in [to Crowded House] because he was being a dick."
Crowded House bar owner Doc Van Praagh said he was very pleased for his staff at the guilty pleas.
"It will take the stress off these guys. It's been hard for them."
While he did not want to see the basketballers' careers ruined, they needed to accept their punishment and then get on with their lives.
"I'm happy they accepted it rather than trying to talk their way out of it."
O'Leary said he took a punch in the chest from Ili and suffered cracked ribs.
He was pleased to see that high-end charges were laid.
"It was brutal attack and the seriousness needs to be recognised."
But he was unsure whether he wanted to see them jailed.
"I would like to see Basketball New Zealand make a stand and recognise the fact it was unacceptable behaviour that should be dealt with appropriately."
- Taranaki Daily News