Transcript gives glimpse into deadly courtroom shooting
Matt Powers, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — Siale Angilau wasn't in good spirits when his trial started in federal court Monday morning.
His attorney, Michale Langford, told Judge Tena Campbell there were some problems with Angilau being held at the Weber County Jail instead of the Utah State Prison during the trial. He was in prison on previous felony convictions.
"The other issue is that he wasn't even able to take a shower, judge," Langford said. "He's locked up in supermax, and he's not in the best of moods, understandably, this morning, and it certainly makes my job a lot more difficult when he's not — when he's not comfortable."
That's how Angilau's trial — the first in Utah's new federal courthouse — began, according to a court transcript. It ended with a U.S. marshal shooting him multiple times in the chest after he attacked Vaiola Tenifa, who was testifying on the witness stand. Angilau later died at a local hospital.
Campbell noted that Angilau had been in her courtroom before and that "he's no problem whatsoever."
"Yeah, he's been fine," Campbell is quoted in the transcript. "You'll be on your best behavior, right, Mr. Angilau?"
"Yeah," he responded.
"OK, because showers are big," the judge said.
The transcript doesn't reveal that anything specific triggered the attack but shows what was going on in the courtroom leading up to it.
Angilau, a member of the Tongan Crip Gang known as "C-Down," was being prosecuted on various charges under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, including robbery, carjacking, assault on a federal officer and weapons violations.
After taking care of the jail issue, Langford raised objections to Tenifa being a "surprise" witness.
Tenifa, 31, is a prison inmate serving up to 30 years for various violent felonies. Langford earlier filed motions to exclude him, saying Tenifa had a personal bias against Angilau and that his credibility was suspect.
Campbell allowed Tenifa to testify and summoned the jury to the courtroom.
Assistant U.S. attorney Stephen Nelson asked Tenifa question after question about gang life and gang activities, including how someone would join TCG.
"So during that three- to four-year time, what types of things are these younger people doing to get noticed by the older TCG members?" Nelson asked.
"Striking up on walls," Tenifa responded, followed by an unidentified voice saying, "Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa."
"Whereupon the defendant attacked the witness, and the trial was terminated and the jury excused," the transcript states.
The judge reconvened court about 30 minutes after the shooting.
"I am sure we're just all shocked by what has happened, but I believe this necessitates, and I'll write a written order, a mistrial," Campbell said. "Given what this jury has just experienced, I cannot see that we could go forward and give Mr. Angilau a fair trial on these charges."
Not knowing Angilau would die Monday afternoon, the judge and the attorneys discussed whether the trial could proceed after he recovered from the gunshot wounds. They also talked about how to get jurors counseling and whether as part of any counseling they could discuss the case with family members, friends and religious leaders.
"OK. I hope you're all all right," the judge said. "I know this is traumatic for you, and I'm sorry. This is not the way that we wanted to initiate our first trial in our lovely new courthouse, but these things happen, and I can just say thanks to all the staff personnel who did so well. So we'll be in recess."
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