Army officer guilty of assault

Last updated 16:27 25/03/2013

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A Linton-based army officer who knocked a colleague out with a single blow and continued to punch him despite his unconsciousness has pleaded guilty to the assault.

Lieutenant Joshua Daniel Saua, 22, pleaded guilty to a charge of injuring with reckless disregard in front of Judge Anne Gaskell in a Military Court Martial at Linton today.

The incident occurred when Saua was outside Palmerston North pub Beer Barrel on August 5 last year.

His colleague, 2nd Lieutenant Daniel Loftas, asked another officer for a lift home.

When he was refused, he became upset and Saua and 2nd Lieutenant Luke Johnson walked away with him on Fitzherbert Ave.

Loftas then pushed Saua and he responded with a single punch to the face that knocked him out, and sent him sprawling. While Loftas was on the ground, Saua continued to punch him, despite his unconsciousness.

2nd Lt Johnson tried to pull him away, but he pushed him off and went back to punching Loftas. Saua was pulled away again and this time walked off down the street.

The unconscious 2nd Lt Loftas was taken to Palmerston North Hospital with swelling and bruising to his face and a bleeding nose. A CT scan showed no significant injury and he was discharged later that afternoon.

Defence counsel Paul Murray said the incident was "totally out of character" for Saua, who had no criminal history and was well-liked and respected by his colleagues and superiors.

After pleading guilty, Saua took the stand and the court heard how three months before the assault, he had returned from deployment in Afghanistan.

During his deployment his platoon was attacked with an RPG, and Saua was instrumental in finding and arresting an insurgent. Another experience, which had a lasting effect on Saua, was suppressed by the court.

Following his deployment, Saua told the court how he became withdrawn and started to drink to excess to cope with his experiences.

On the night of the assault, Saua said he "wasn't feeling too flash" and had been drinking heavily.

He had "never felt like that before", and "it actually scared me", he said.

"I'd had too much to drink and something just flipped."

After the assault, he realised he needed to get some help and contacted his superiors, arranging to see a psychologist, and attending anger management.

Saua went to restorative justice with 2nd Lt Loftas, and offered to pay him $912, the equivalent wages of the five days he took off after the incident.

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Saua's Commanding Officer Major Geoff Faraday, was among those who took the stand to give a reference for him, calling him enthusiastic, professional and passionate.

Saua said he was looking to leave the army sometime in the future and was considering tertiary study, but would like to remain in the territorial reserves.

He told the court how he was proud of his Samoan heritage, and bore a Pe'a tattoo done the traditional way over 11 days with a hammer and chisel, and was in line to take over from his father as chief of their village in Samoa.

As one of three Samoan officers in the army, he wanted to be a role model, he said.

He was a regular church-goer when work allowed, and played rugby socially.

In addition to ordering a stay of rank of 16 months, Saua was also ordered to pay $1000 reparation and suffer a "severe reprimand", which will appear on his record.

- Manawatu Standard

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