28 September 2023

Verdicts in trial of ex-top rugby player, second man accused of rape

| Albert McKnight
two men leaving court

Paula Fala Kata (left) hides his face from the media’s cameras during his trial with Seti Palei Moala (right). Photos: Albert McKnight.

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

A former national rugby union player and his co-accused, who described himself as being “like Spider-Man”, have both been acquitted of raping a woman, although the latter was found to have choked her.

The ACT Supreme Court trial of 35-year-old Paula Fala Kata and 28-year-old Seti Palei Moala began earlier this month before its closings took place this week.

The pair had been accused of raping the woman at the Lyneham Motor Inn on the morning of 3 April 2022, both separately and together.

Eleven jurors began deliberating on Monday (25 September) before returning to the courtroom on Wednesday morning and announcing Mr Kata had been found not guilty of all charges.

These were sexual intercourse without consent in company and sexual intercourse without consent.

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The jury continued to deliberate on Moala’s charges. They returned to the courtroom a couple of hours later and announced they had found him not guilty of two counts of sexual intercourse without consent and one count of sexual intercourse without consent in company.

However, they did find him guilty of a choking charge.

Prosecutor Melanie O’Connell applied for Moala’s bail to be revoked, which Chief Justice Lucy McCallum ultimately granted due to the potential flight risk and his lack of ties to Canberra and Sydney – which is where he has been living – as well as the seriousness of the choking offence.

Moala’s bail was revoked and the matter was adjourned to 16 October for sentencing.

Before it was, his lawyer, Edward Chen, flagged the “spectre” of the jury’s verdict potentially being inconsistent, arguing his client would have to be sentenced on the basis he intentionally choked the woman but without the intention to have sex with her.

Seti Palei Moala (left) and Paula Fala Kata (right) pictured after their arrest in 2022. Photos: Albert McKnight.

Jurors heard the woman told police she had 20 to 30 drinks that night and parts of her memory were “blurry”.

She said she and her friend met a group of men at Fiction nightclub and she remembered “hooking up” with one she called a “bigger guy” – alleged to be Mr Kata.

Four of them went back to the hotel. After they arrived, she and the bigger guy had consensual sex before she fell asleep.

She claimed she woke up to find a “younger male” – alleged to be Moala – on top of her.

“I was trying to kick him off and get him off, but he wouldn’t get off and kept saying he was ‘like Spider-Man’,” she said.

She alleged Moala held her down and both he and Mr Kata raped her, including at the same time.

“I just gave up. I stopped fighting. I just wanted it to be over with. I just froze,” the woman said.

“I said ‘stop’ numerous times, though, before I gave up and they just wouldn’t listen.”

She also said Moala had choked her.

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Mr Kata previously played in Tonga’s national rugby union team.

His barrister, James Sabharwal, suggested that apart from what had occurred between him and the woman before she fell asleep, they had not had sex again.

Paula Fala Kata, 35, raised his finger to the media during his trial. Photo: Albert McKnight.

Moala’s lawyer, Mr 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.

If you or someone you know needs help, contact 1800RESPECT, the national domestic and sexual violence support service by calling 1800 737 732.

Help is also available at:

Lifeline’s 24-hour crisis support line – 13 11 14
Suicide Call Back Service – 1300 659 467
Kids Helpline – 1800 551 800
MensLine Australia – 1300 789 978.

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