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U. football player kicked off team, charged with assaulting wife

Niasi Leota attacked, threatened to kill woman in front of their children, police say

Published: Saturday, Feb. 23 2013 11:55 a.m. MST

SALT LAKE CITY — A University of Utah football player has been dismissed from the team after police say he attacked his wife and threatened to kill her in front of their children.

Koliniasi Mona Leota, 24, was charged Wednesday with three felonies and four misdemeanors for alleged incidents that occurred Feb. 17 at their Salt Lake apartment. Leota became angry and punched his wife in the head and face, then told her to go into the bathroom to clean up the blood, charges filed in 3rd District Court state.

While she was in the bathroom, the 6-foot 4-inch, 278-pound man hit her in the head with a curling iron, then wrapped the iron's cords around his hands and tried to strangle her, the charging documents state. He then allegedly ripped a towel bar from the wall, hit her in the head with it and tried to stab her in the throat with the broken end.

Leota also "attempted to fill the bathtub with water to electrocute the victim with the curling iron," a Salt Lake County Jail report states.

The woman told police that each time she tried to run out the door, Leota would grab her by the hair and drag her back inside. Prosecutors say the couple's 2-year-old child was present during the assault.

A friend arrived with their two older children, ages 3 and 4, during the ordeal and the mother ran outside and got into the car with them, locking the door. A police officer reported seeing Leota standing outside the car threatening to smash the windows and saying, "I'm going to kill you. I'm going to fly to Hawaii and kill your family."

Leota, a defensive tackle, appeared in 10 games last season and made six tackles. The former Granger High standout transferred to Utah after two seasons at Mt. San Antonio (Calif.) College.

Leota was already on suspension and has since been dismissed from the U. football program.

"We will do everything we can to help Niasi and his family get through this situation, but obviously we do not tolerate this kind of behavior," Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said in a statement.

Leota was charged with aggravated kidnapping, a first-degree felony, aggravated assault, a third-degree felony, and commission of domestic violence in the presence of a child, a third-degree felony. He was also charged with four class B misdemeanors: threat of violence and three counts of commission of domestic violence in the presence of a child.

He remained in the Salt Lake County Jail Saturday, where he is being held on $250,000 bail. Leota is scheduled to appear in court on Monday.

Last month, another player was kicked off the U. football team. Afa Bridenstine, a walk-on linebacker, pleaded guilty to an assault stemming from a road rage incident that occurred in Centerville in September. The freshman had never played a single down for the Utes.

Contributing: Dirk Facer

E-mail: bwest@desnews.com

Twitter: misterwestt

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