Crown considers appealing home detention sentence in sexual assault case

Anna Leask, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Wednesday, 28 November 2018, 1:50PM
Devonte Mulitalo has come under fire for celebrating his soft sentence. (Photo / Supplied)
Devonte Mulitalo has come under fire for celebrating his soft sentence. (Photo / Supplied)

The Crown is considering an appeal against the sentence of home detention handed down to an Auckland youth worker who sexually groomed and abused a 12-year-old girl in his care.

Devonte Vincent Walter Mulitalo, 23, pleaded guilty to one charge of sexual connection with a young person under 16, and a second charge of indecent communication with a young person.

In the Auckland District Court on Monday, Judge Mary-Beth Sharp sentenced Mulitalo to 11 months' home detention for his offending.

The Crown had sought a sentence of imprisonment but after Judge Sharp gave Mulitalo discounts for his remorse, age and lack of previous offending, she handed down a term of home detention.

She ordered Mulitalo be assessed for a sex offender's programme and to participate in it if he was accepted.

She also made an order for him to pay the victim $2000 in instalments of $25 a week and banned him from using devices capable of accessing the internet.

The court heard that Mulitalo had expressed "extreme remorse" and had written an apology letter to his young victim - who had suffered significantly as a result of his "gross" offending.

Since sentencing the Herald has revealed an image and video of Mulitalo posted on social media that seem to contradict that remorse.

Just after 1pm today a spokeswoman for the Crown Law office confirmed that the prosecutor had requested an appeal against the sentence.

That request was now being formally considered.

Mulitalo's lawyer Panama Le'au'anae has been contacted but is yet to respond.

Between January and July 2017 Mulitalo sent "numerous" sexually explicit images to a 12-year-old girl.

He also admitted coercing the girl into a shed to perform sexual acts on him.

At the time Mulitalo was employed at Youth Town - a nationally operated, not-for-profit organisation focusing on developing 5-18 year olds.

He was a supervisor and co-ordinator for after school care and the young victim was in under his watch.

According to a Youth Town profile Mulitalo was also a top basketballer who played for the NZ Development Squad, Counties Manukau and the Queensland Ipswich Force.

After meeting the 12-year-old, Mulitalo began telling the girl how much he liked her.

Initially he hugged her, but that moved on to kissing and further into other sexual acts.

He was 21 at the time.

Mulitalo was charged after his colleagues found the lewd images on the girl's phone and alerted police.

At sentencing Crown prosecutor Henry Steele described Mulitalo's offending as serious.

"He was in a position of real responsibility… he used that position, the trust placed in him, to offend against the victim," he said.

"He predated on her, groomed her and physically isolated her in order to offend."

Steele said Mulitalo's offending was a "gross breach of trust" and exploitation - and the effects were "catastrophic" for the victim and her family.

Le'au'anae agreed that the impact of Mulitalo's offending was "profound".

He said when the sexual abuse occurred Mulitalo was "only 22".

"He had been overseas and returned to New Zealand to assist with family matters," Le'au'anae told the court.

"He secured this opportunity at Youth Town… there was a lack of insight on his part, immaturity.

"Quite clearly he should never have engaged in the way he did… at the time of the offending he was only 22.

"It doesn't excuse his behaviour… but it might give some form of insight as to why he went down this path."


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