PROVO A Provo man charged with aggravated kidnapping had a powerful advocate Thursday as a Utah congressman vouched for his nonviolent nature.
Rep. Chris Cannon stood before a judge in 4th District Court Thursday to vouch for the character of Sifa Pulu, 25, who has been in jail since Aug. 3.
Police allege that Pulu and his relative Sione Afu drove a woman around Provo for several hours, threatening to kill her over a failed drug deal.
"I've known him for a number of years," Cannon told Judge Gary Stott, as a handcuffed Pulu listened with his head down. "His wife grew up in my home as a friend of my daughter. I know him very, very well. He is not a violent person. He is troubled, no question about that. But if the court will let him go, he will toe the line."
And if he didn't, would Cannon be willing to be responsible? Stott asked.
"If he doesn't show after I release him," Stott said. "(I will) hold you responsible for those costs ... expended to bring him back."
"I would be willing to stand for those costs," Cannon said.
Stott agreed to release Pulu on his own recognizance, rather than requiring that he post the original $10,000 cash or bond bail. Pulu was released on conditions that he not have any contact with people involved in this case, that he attend every future court hearing or he'll be in jail without the chance of bail, and that he cooperate with his attorney.
Defense attorney Richard Gale had told Stott of Pulu's lack of violent criminal history. Pulu's record contains a retail theft and DUI.
Gale said Cannon came as a family friend and commended his willingness to speak out in Pulu's behalf.
Prosecutors objected to Pulu's release, but because the preliminary hearing was scheduled far enough out, keeping Pulu in custody would have violated his request for a speedy trial.
"Given the violent nature of the charges against Pulu, the state would prefer to keep him in custody," said prosecutor Jared Perkins. "If the court is inclined to release him, we'd ask that he have no contact with the victim or the victim's family."
Police say the 24-year-old victim was picked up from her house Aug. 2 after drugs she arranged to sell to the men turned out to be bad. Police said Pulu and Afu drove her around Provo for two hours while threatening her with a shotgun and a knife.
She told police she begged for her life, but the men said they were taking her to Utah Lake to kill her. They also threatened that if she tried to get away, they would attack her family.
Despite those threats, when the woman saw a police car traveling in the same area, she jumped out of the car she was in as it was traveling nearly 40 miles per hour.
Witnesses told police they saw the woman jump and gave her a ride to catch up with the police officer, who took her to the hospital, then interviewed her.
Police called Pulu into the office the next day to ask him about the woman's missing cell phone, but police say he denied knowing anything about a kidnapping. After obtaining permission to search his car, police found the knife and several of the woman's possessions and Pulu was arrested and booked into jail.
Police issued a warrant for Afu's arrest after they were unable to contact him. He now has an attorney who has requested that the court recall the warrant because he says his client will appear in court in two weeks.
Calls to the attorney were not immediately returned.
Perkins said he expects Afu will be in court Sept. 18, the same day Pulu's case was set for another hearing.
The state also plans to charge the victim with arranging to distribute a controlled substance, Perkins said.Gale mentioned that having a preliminary hearing in the case before the victim's case is adjudicated might be difficult, as her testimony might be self-incriminating.