Twenty-one-year-old Michael Schuster has been sentenced to 28 months in jail and fined $5,000 for the stabbing death of his cousin Aiesi Natuitasina last August.
The well-spoken, clean-shaven, young man said he can never take back what he did and that he is already imprisoned for the rest of his life.
He acknowledged that he has sinned and said he will do penance by serving his God and family and also to the family of the victim.
He said he was not a violent person and what he did was out of anger and completely out of character.
He said several times he was sorry that every night when he goes to bed he cannot explain what happened.
Schuster said, “To my Lord and Savior and with all my heart and soul I’m very very sorry, please forgive me.”
Character witnesses for Schuster were his uncle, Faiivae Alex Godinet, the principal of his high school Faasao Marist, Victor Langkilde, and his mother Antonia Schuster.
All spoke about a humble, obedient, kind and reliable young man.
His mother said Michael is a loving child though what he’s done “shocked the heart … he’s still my son.”
She said that she went on her knees and begged the mother of the victim for forgiveness on behalf of her son and their whole family,
She begged the court to give her son a second chance.
Defense attorney Sharron Rancourt asked that the court consider that Schuster owned up to what he did, and while he tried to hide the crime the night it happened out of fear, he did call police and entered a plea in a short time.
Prosecutor Russell Smith said the apology Schuster made in court was one of the most genuine statements of remorse he’s heard in his years of practice.
However, he said the court needs to look at punishment and deterrent.
Smith said the original charge of murder second degree was amended to manslaughter during investigation of the case and it became clear this was a crime of passion.
He said the court needed to deliver a sentence for punishment and deterrent that fits the crime of manslaughter.
He said if the court intends to impose a sentence lower than the seven year maximum sentence for manslaughter he asks for a 28 month jail term.
Chief Justice Michael Kruse, assisted by associate judges Faamausili Pomele and Muasau Tofili sentenced Schuster to 7 years in prison, suspended on condition that he serve 28 months without release, with credit for time served and placed on probation for 7 years.
Schuster is also fined $5,000.
Before the judges recessed to deliberate on a sentence, the chief Justice gave very strong statements about the role of the court in deciding sentences , in the context of defendants and relatives asking for forgiveness.
That story in our 5 pm news.