Former NRL star Manase Fainu’s appeal against stabbing conviction

Former NRL star Manase Fainu’s appeal against stabbing conviction
  • PublishedSeptember 15, 2023

Former NRL star Manase Fainu has argued another man may have been wielding the knife during the bloody stabbing outside a church that landed him in jail.

The 24-year-old was sentenced to eight years behind bars for stabbing a youth leader during a bloody brawl outside a Mormon church dance in October 2019.

A jury found that he had plunged a steak knife into the back of Faamanu Levi at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at Wattle Grove in southwestern Sydney.

The 10cm blade punctured Mr Levi’s lungs and caused internal bleeding.

Fainu then swung the knife upwards and slashed a deep cut through the victim’s eyebrow.

The former rugby league rising star pleaded not guilty to the charge of wounding a person with intent to cause grievous bodily harm and continues to deny the allegations.

On Friday, he appeared in the NSW Court of Criminal Appeal to contest the “unreasonable verdict” handed down by the jury last year.

His barrister Mike Smith argued there was still a question of whether the knife had been in Fainu’s possession at the time of the stabbing.

He argued it was possible one of the other men was holding the knife that stabbed Mr Levi, or that more than one knife was involved in the brawl.

Mr Smith said the evidence about the identity of the man wielding the knife was “to be kind, a little unclear” and noted the witnesses had time to influence each other before giving their statements to police.

Crown prosecutor Emma Curran refuted the suggestions and highlighted the evidence of two eyewitnesses to the brawl who saw the knife in Fainu’s hand.

“Both of them gave evidence that the person with the knife was the person with the sling,” she said.

“There is no evidence that anyone else was observed to be wearing a sling on that night and no evidence that anyone else in the melee was armed with a knife.”

He had his arm in a sling when he stabbed the man. Picture: Matt Blyth/Getty Images

He had his arm in a sling when he stabbed the man. Picture: Matt Blyth/Getty Images

He was sentenced to eight years in jail. Picture: Jason McCawley/Getty Images

He was sentenced to eight years in jail. Picture: Jason McCawley/Getty Images

During the trial, eyewitness Tony Quach testified he saw Fainu looking angry and clutching a steak knife in one hand while his other arm was in a sling.

He said he had seen the former Manly Sea Eagles player plunge the knife into Mr Levi’s back in the church parking lot during the bloody affray.

Mr Smith opined Mr Quach’s evidence was “so inadequate” and “so insufficient” that the jury should not have returned a guilty verdict.

He said the account of witness Kupi Toilalo contradicted Mr Quach’s crucial testimony by providing a “radically different” account of events and where the brawlers were positioned.

Given the violent melee took place in a cramped space in between two cars, he maintained the person wielding the knife would not have been able to slip past Mr Quach.

Yet the crown prosecutor noted that relying more heavily on Mr Toilalo’s evidence of where the man with the knife stood in the brawl did not exonerate Fainu.

She said the eyewitness “had an unobstructed view” of a man with his arm in a sling who was holding a knife, just moments before it was announced Mr Levi had been stabbed.

Eyewitness Tony Quach said he saw Fainu stabbing the victim. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Christian Gilles

Eyewitness Tony Quach said he saw Fainu stabbing the victim. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Christian Gilles

In addition to the numerous statements from witnesses, Ms Curran said CCTV footage of Fainu arriving and leaving was also “damaging” to his case.

“This isn’t a case that rested on the evidence of Mr Quach and only Mr Quach,” she said.

“The applicant’s guilt is, we say, plainly established beyond reasonable doubt.”

The CCTV showed Fainu and four of his friends arriving at a car park adjacent to the Mormon church and jumping over the fence into the church grounds.

Fainu testified he went to the dance to help one of his friends, Uona “Big Buck” Faingaa, collect money he was owed by a man for a concreting job.

Mr Smith noted the CCTV did not show the former NRL hooker holding a knife either before or after the violent brawl.

Supreme Court Justices Mark Leeming, Natalie Adams, and Hament Dhanji will hand down their decision at a later date.

Fainu was at one time considered one of the best young hooker in the NRL but he has not played since he was charged over the stabbing in late 2019.

CCTV footage showing Manase Fainu jumping a fence into a Mormon church dance shortly before the brawl.

CCTV footage showing Manase Fainu jumping a fence into a Mormon church dance shortly before the brawl.

The stabbing cut his career short at a time when legendary former Manly Sea Eagles coach Des Hasler said the hooker “had the world at his feet”.

“I have absolutely no doubt that he was destined for greatness,” the NRL coaching great said in a statement read in court when the player was sentenced.

He believed Fainu, like other young athletes, had experienced a “Superman Complex” which meant he thought he could not be harmed and which was exacerbated by the pressure of elite sport.

Earlier this year, it emerged that the 24-year-old was sharing a cell with fellow disgraced NRL player Jarryd Hayne at the Geoffrey Pearce Correctional Centre in Sydney’s northwest.

SOURCE: NEWS.COM

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