25 September 2023

Duo, including ex-top rugby player, accused of rape made 'ridiculous' claims: prosecutor

| Albert McKnight
Seti Palei Moala (left) and Paula Fala Kata (right) are fighting their charges at a trial. Photos: Albert McKnight.

Seti Palei Moala (left) and Paula Fala Kata (right) are fighting their charges at a trial. Photos: Albert McKnight.

CONTENT WARNING: This article refers to an alleged sexual assault.

The version of events that a former national rugby player and a man who said he was “like Spider-Man” claim took place on the night they allegedly raped a woman has been called “ridiculous” by a prosecutor.

Seti Palei Moala, 28, and Paula Fala Kata, 35, are accused of raping the woman at the Lyneham Motor Inn on the morning of 3 April 2022. Their trial began in the ACT Supreme Court this month.

Last week, jurors heard the woman allege she’d had consensual sex with Mr Kata and fell asleep, then woke up to Mr Moala on top of her, before both he and Mr Kata raped her.

But Mr Moala’s lawyer, Edward Chen, had suggested that after she’d had sex with Mr Kata, two men walked into the hotel room while she was still awake and she made eye contact with the “younger man” – being his client.

The lawyer suggested this man lay down next to her and they began talking before he lay on top of her, then they started kissing and wrestling in a “playful manner”. He suggested the man had tried to have sex with her, but she kicked him away, which ended their interaction.

In closing addresses on Monday (25 September), prosecutor Melanie O’Connell said on this alleged version, it was the woman who had been the “sexual aggressor” who “lures” him into bed but then pushes him away when he tries to have sex.

This was “implausible and ridiculous”, she said.

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When it came to Mr Kata, his barrister, James Sabharwal, had suggested that apart from what had occurred between his client and the woman before she fell asleep, they had not had sex again.

Mr Kata, who previously played in Tonga’s national rugby team, gave evidence via an interpreter on Friday (22 September) and denied returning to the bed after Mr Moala had entered the hotel room.

“I made an oath on the Bible to tell the truth and I’m not making things up here,” he said at one stage.

He met the woman at a nightclub called Fiction earlier that night and claimed he approached her after she had been gesturing to him and “making eye contact”.

Mr Kata claimed he was not interested in having sex with her but did so because she was “urging” and annoying him.

“I knew if I didn’t have sex with her, she will keep on annoying me,” he claimed.

In Ms O’Connell’s closings, she said, “Ladies and gentlemen, it sounds ridiculous because it’s not the truth”.

She suggested Mr Kata had been trying to downplay his interest in the woman, saying closed-circuit television footage showed he had approached her in the nightclub and put his arm around her.

But in Mr Chen’s closing submissions, he argued the woman had been an unreliable witness.

He said she’d had about 30 drinks that night and alleged she’d initially made comments to police that suggested her memories might have been “evolving”.

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Mr Chen said the woman claimed she repeatedly punched his client and while she did have swelling on her knuckles, a doctor could not say if the swelling came from throwing punches. Another doctor only found one injury on his client’s chest.

The woman also claimed she’d been bitten on the lip and had gotten a blood nose during the alleged incident, but Mr Chen said a doctor had not found corresponding injuries.

He said two men who had been in the hotel room claimed they remembered Mr Moala and the woman falling off the bed and laughing. If this was the case, he suggested it was “quite fatal” to the woman’s allegations.

“Mr Moala has not acted in a way that’s consistent with someone who is, in fact, guilty,” he also said.

Both men are charged with sexual intercourse without consent in company, among other charges, and have pleaded not guilty.

Chief Justice Lucy McCallum has begun giving her summary to the jury.

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