Survivor describes golf course attack


POSTED: Thursday, February 26, 2009

The only victim to survive a brazen midday shooting at Pali Golf Course in 2004 faced his accused attacker in federal court yesterday, offering gruesome testimony laced with foul language.

;[Preview]    Sao Testifies At Pali Golf Course Hearing

Pali Golf Course survivor, Tino Sao said that he was shot at point blank range and named the three people that was involved, killing his brother and another man.

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“;He wen shoot me, the p- right there,”; said Tinoimalu Sao, pointing to defendant Ethan “;Malu”; Motta.

Sao testified yesterday in the murder and racketeering trial of Motta and Rodney Joseph Jr.

Sao's brother Romelius Corpuz Jr. and Sao's brother-in-law Lepo Taliese died from multiple gunshot wounds in the attack on Jan. 7, 2004. They were shot in the back. Another man who was with them was not shot.

The four men went to the Pali Golf Course for what they thought was a meeting with Motta and Joseph to discuss expanding their partnership of providing protection to illegal gambling operations to Maui, Sao said.

When they arrived in the parking lot, Sao said he went up to Joseph to shake his hand, but Joseph kept his hands in his jacket pocket. So he said he hugged Joseph, who continued to keep his hands in his pockets.

He said he then went up to Motta, said, “;Hey, Malu,”; and was greeted with, “;Hey, Tino, we finally meet.”;

When he backed up to allow Corpuz and Taliese to also greet Motta, he said Motta shot him in the face. He said he put his hands up to his face and yelled, “;This f- just wen' shoot me.”;

He said the bullet went through his nose and down to his jaw and shattered the lower part of his skull. He said he could taste the burn and gunpowder.

Sao said when he looked at Motta, Motta was still pointing a gun at him.

After he yelled, he said, his companions took off running. He said he saw Motta chase Taliese and shoot him. And he said he heard Motta say, “;Rodney, shoot him.”;

Sao said he then collapsed and passed out next to Joseph and Motta's car. When he regained consciousness, he heard Motta say, “;Shoot him,”; heard a gunshot, then heard Joseph say, “;Shoot him, Kevin.”;

Kevin A. Gonsalves admitted his role in the shooting last year and is serving a 330-month sentence in federal prison.

Sao said he then heard Motta say, “;Get in, cops coming.”;

Sao said that after Motta, Joseph and Gonsalves left, he got up and started looking for his brother. When he could not find Corpuz, he said, he sat down on a concrete bench next to the golf pro shop. Corpuz then arrived and sat next to him.

He said Corpuz told him he had been shot in the back and back of the head. He said Corpuz had a hard time breathing and sitting up, so he held his brother up.

When an ambulance arrived, he said, he asked paramedics to help his brother first. But he said police told the paramedics to help him because his brother was already dead.

Sao bears no outwardly visible signs of the shot to his face. He said the bullet is still in his jaw because doctors told him it keeps moving around. And he said he cannot breathe well except with the assistance of a machine.

Sao said that just three days before the shooting, he attended a meeting between two of the security factions in which they agreed to exclude Joseph, Motta and Gonsalves from a game room on Kalakaua Avenue.

The shooting was not the first time Sao was a victim in the fight among competing factions.

In July 2003 he and another man providing security at a gambling house on Young Street were brutally beaten with baseball bats and other objects by members of a faction headed by Robert Kaialau. The other victim, Raymond Gomes Jr., was also stabbed multiple times.

A federal judge sentenced Kaialau last year to 20 years in prison for racketeering.