FARMINGTON — Heneli Kaufusi said he had no intention of killing Sione Mangisi. He was only trying to protect his family.
"Never meant for him to die that day," he told 2nd District Judge John R. Morris on Wednesday. "I did not want him to die that day."
But while Morris conceded that the original fight may have been a case of self-defense, there came a point when it went well beyond that. And because of that, there are consequences that Kaufusi will have to face for his actions.
"I agree with everyone who said this was a tragedy, and I agree that whatever I do, there are no winners. There are only losers today," the judge said before handing down his sentence.
Kaufusi was sentenced Wednesday to two terms of one to 15 years at the Utah State Prison for his convictions of manslaughter and aggravated assault. The sentences were ordered to run concurrently.
On Oct. 14, 2015, Mangisi went to Kaufusi's Bountiful house. Kaufusi is married to Mangisi's ex-wife. The two men had a history of tension and conflict.
"They never got along," said Kaufusi's attorney, Ed Brass.
When Mangisi stopped by the house on that day to pick up his three children, an argument ensued. Kaufusi is the step-father to three of Mangisi's children and also had two children of his own with Mangini's ex-wife.
All sides conceded that the incident may have started as self-defense on the part of Kaufusi. But Kaufusi, who is listed in police records as being 6 feet 4 inches tall and 330 pounds, continued to punch and stomp on Mangisi's head and chest well after the point that Mangisi could defend himself. Mangisi was taken to a local hospital where he died from his injuries.
Kaufusi was originally charged with murder, a first-degree felony. He pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter in February.
The courtroom was packed with friends and family members of both Kaufusi and Mangisi during Wednesday's sentencing hearing. Although there were nine Davis County sheriff's deputies positioned around the room, there was an atmosphere of forgiveness from all sides.
"I forgive you Henry, for killing my son," Mangisi's mother, Mita, told Kaufusi. "Let God be the final judge because I cannot judge."
All of the friends and family members of Mangisi who addressed the court said they forgave Kaufusi. Some noted that in many ways, Kaufusi and Mangisi were alike. They were both loving fathers and both did a lot for their communities. Kaufusi told the court that he had even hoped they would have been able to settle their differences over time.
"Sione was a good man. We both had our faults," he said. "I had hoped one day, him and I, (would) be able to settle our differences and focus on our commonalities."
But while the family of Mangisi forgave Kaufusi, they still said there needed to be justice.
"Everyone has emotions that take over," said one man speaking on behalf of Mangisi's family. "But there is a limit to that type of rage. And that limit was surpassed and then some.
"They were both trying to do what they thought was right. But actions have consequences," he said.
Both men were trying to do what they thought was best for the five children involved, the man said. All sides of the courtroom agreed that the children were the ones who will suffer the most from the tragedy. But Kaufusi still has the potential to be their father one day.
"One of them still has the opportunity to do that. The other can’t. One of them is enclosed 6 feet under. The other, the door opens," he said.
"I want you to know that I forgive you, and I don’t hate you,” Mangisi's sister said in court. "I'm so sorry for both sides. Nobody here is a winner. I'm very sorry for this entire situation."
Kaufusi's family members painted a picture for the court of a person who had been the man of the house since he was 6 after their parents got divorced. He was the lone male in the house and was always protecting his sisters and his mother.
"He was our protector. He wanted to make sure we were safe while my mother worked two jobs," Kaufusi's sister told the court.
"His strength as a protector is also a weakness," Kaufusi's wife, Stacy Kaufusi, said. "I don’t know what anyone else would have done. This is a complete anomaly of what happened."
Kaufusi told the court that he was "put in a situation where I had to fight to defend myself and my kids. It was my fear he was going to hurt them."
But Kaufusi, who had a concealed weapons permit and a gun nearby, said if he had wanted to kill Mangisi he could have done it by shooting him. He never reached for his gun and was "crushed to pieces" when he learned of Mangisi's death.
"I would have never thought in a million years that Sione was going to die that day,” he said. "I would never wish death on any man … even if he was trying to kill me.”
Kaufusi then apologized to Mangisi's family while thanking his own family for standing by his side.
"Once a man is stripped of everything and everything he loves, it's only then he is humble enough to mold into the man that God intended him to be," he said while noting that he believed he would become a better man because of the tragedy. "I know wherever I go from here, that’s where I’m supposed to be."
Before sentencing, Morris said he appreciated the Tongan community's open-heartedness over the situation, but that it didn't surprise him. Still, he reiterated that actions have consequences.