24 September 2021

Three Kokomo's brawlers sentenced over 'unrelenting violence' of night bikie boss killed

| Albert McKnight
Pitasoni 'Soni' Ulavalu

Pitasoni ‘Soni’ Ulavalu was killed in July 2020. Photo: Facebook.

Three more brawlers have been sentenced for the “unrelenting violence” they were part of at the fatal bar fight in Kokomo’s where a bikie boss was killed.

After the melee kicked off at the Civic nightclub in the early hours of 19 July 2020, 26-year-old Frederick Elijah Mercy Tuifua attacked Canberra Comanchero’s commander Pitasoni ‘Soni’ Ulavalu and later pleaded guilty to his murder.

Maximilian Ellis Kurt Budack and brothers Matthew Rokosuka Vakatagi Kupu and Osaiasi Avanua Sydney Kupu all pleaded guilty to charges of affray over their roles in the public fight before they were sentenced in the ACT Magistrates Court on Thursday (23 September).

In closed-circuit television footage shown to the court, the 10 brawlers can be seen throwing punches and smashing into tables and chairs while patrons jump out of their way.

“This was an exhibition of extreme and unrelenting violence,” prosecutor Luke Crocker said.

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Patrons had to flee for their safety to escape the “ferocity of this affray”, he said.

He said Matthew, then aged 22 and who had a background in boxing, had committed a “sustained and ruthless” one-on-one attack on one of the bikies by punching him 19 times before stomping on him.

Osaiasi, then 23, was in a different part of the brawl where he tackled another bikie and restrained him, allowing others to punch the man before throwing a punch himself.

Court documents show when Tuifua’s group entered Kokomo’s before the brawl, Budack placed his bag on Mr Ulavalu’s table while having a disagreement with two other Comancheros.

Budack was removed from the nightclub by security and Mr Ulavalu looked through the bag before pulling out an item and giving it to a member of his gang, who went into the bathroom and stood in front of a paper towel dispenser.

Mr Ulavalu wrapped his jacket around the bag and gave it to a Kokomo’s staff member, who placed it behind the bar.

When police later searched the paper towel dispenser, they found a wallet with Budack’s photographic identification.

Mr Crocker said it was clear that when Budack returned to the club after being kicked out, he was there to fight.

“It is fanciful to think that he was going to politely ask for his bag back, and that was realistically going to happen,” he said.

He said Budack created “the powder keg” that led to the brawl.

Budack was later taken to Canberra Hospital on 4 August 2020 with three gunshot injuries. Matthew and Osaiasi Kupu were arrested at the hospital on 5 August and Budack was arrested the day after.

The barrister for Matthew and Osaiasi Kupu and Budack, AJ Karim, said the brawl was serious, but was also spontaneous and there was no evidence of any resentment between the parties before it began.

Matthew and Osaiasi Kupu spent three months and 20 days in custody, he said, which was longer than the 64 days the first brawler sentenced had spent behind bars.

Budack also pleaded guilty to a charge of assault after attacking another detainee in the Alexander Maconochie Centre on 1 November 2020.

Several inmates bashed their victim, who was later described by police as having “what appeared to be shoe prints on his face”, for about 40 seconds in an exercise yard before prison authorities intervened.

Budack walked in late and punched the victim once, but then stood between guards and the victim when they tried to reach him.

Magistrate James Lawton said the victim was entitled to feel safe from attacks when in jail.

Budack, 27, had already spent over 13 months in jail. He was sentenced to 12 months behind bars, with Magistrate Lawton saying he had served the full period.

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Matthew was sentenced to eight months jail and Osaiasi six months, both suspended for 12-month good behaviour orders.

“People who engage in acts of violence in public places in this manner should expect to receive custodial sentences,” Magistrate Lawton said.

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