A former University of Utah defensive lineman who had disappeared for four and a half years after physically abusing his wife was taken into custody on Monday.
In Feb. 2013, Koliniasi “Niasi” Leota, then 24, was accused of physically abusing his wife in front of their 2-year-old. He pleaded guilty to third-degree felony aggravated assault.
But Leota missed his sentencing on July 29, 2013, and, according to prosecuting attorney Joshua Graves, has been living out of state ever since.
Third District Judge Randall Skanchy issued a $25,000 warrant for Leota’s arrest in 2013.
On Feb. 14, the now-29-year-old defendant called and set up a bench warrant hearing, according to Graves, then flew in and was taken into custody on Monday.
“We were concerned he wouldn’t come back if he was given a chance to report on his own again,” Graves said of Leota’s arrest.
Leota had made a similar arrangement in the past, in November, but didn’t show up for the hearing, Graves said.
Leota is now scheduled to be sentenced on April 9. The charge carries a maximum sentence of five years in the Utah State Prison.
On Feb. 17, 2013, the 6-foot-4, 278-pound Leota punched his wife in the face hard enough that she bled, according to charging documents. When she went into the bathroom to clean up, he hit her head with a curling iron, and tried to stab her with a towel rod that he tore out of the wall.
He also wrapped the curling iron around her neck, and tried to electrocute her by tossing the curling iron into a bathtub full of water, according to charges.
He also yanked her back into the apartment by the hair when she tried to escape, charges state. During the assault, someone arrived at the apartment with the couple’s other two children, a 3-year-old and a 4-year-old. Leota’s wife ran outside and locked herself into the car with the other woman and the two children.
When the police arrived, Leota was reportedly screaming and threatening to smash the car’s windows and rip off the hood, documents state.
The University of Utah football team dismissed Leota after the charges were filed.
Leota was initially charged with first-degree felony counts of aggravated kidnapping and aggravated assault, third-degree felony domestic violence in the presence of a child, and four domestic-violence-related misdemeanors.
As part of June 2013 plea deal, Leota pleaded guilty to a reduced third-degree felony count of aggravated assault, and the other charges were dismissed.