Boxer Tutaki charged with escaping custody

ROBERT KIDD
Last updated 14:05 06/12/2012

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Boxer Richard Tutaki, who will fight in the headline bout of this month's Fight for Life, has been found guilty of escaping lawful custody.

The 34-year-old, who was controversially pulled from a New Zealand title fight against Sonny Bill Williams in February, appeared in Manukau District Court today where he disputed a charge of escaping from police who pulled him over in West Auckland in October last year.

The court heard that on October 29 at 1.30am Tutaki and a friend were pulled over by police outside the Kelston McDonalds where he told them his name was ''Robert Tutaki'' - his 37-year-old brother.

After police noticed a distinctive tattoo on his left arm, they checked details with their Northern Communications team who said Robert had no such marking.

Tutaki eventually confirmed his true identity and admitted he had lied because there were warrants out for his arrest.

He was placed under arrest, but he and his friend then drove off in their car.

Some months later Tutaki made a voluntary appearance at Manukau police station where he declined to make a formal statement but explained he had not wanted to be taken into custody because he had a fight coming up.

Judge Josephine Bouchier said the central issue was whether the arresting constable had touched Tutaki's arm and therefore made a valid arrest, from which he then escaped.

The boxer disputed there had been any physical contact.

''I prefer the credibility of the police constable on the basis she appears to be a credible and professional witness and made notes at the time,'' the judge said.

Tutaki was convicted of escaping lawful custody and probation.

He also addressed the court in relation to two further charges of breaching a sentence of community work, to which he had previously pleaded guilty.

In 2007 he was convicted of a range of charges, which featured methamphetamine offending and breaches of court orders, and was sentenced to 300 hours of community work.

To date he had only done 8.5 hours and had not engaged with Onehunga probation staff for more than a year.

Judge Bouchier ordered a pre-sentence report, which would make recommendations on a replacement punishment and would take into account the possibility of electronically-monitored penalties such as community detention.

Tutaki will be back in court next month for a further defended hearing and for sentence on today's matters.

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