U.S. Marshals in the new Salt Lake City courthouse on Monday shot a defendant in the chest several times as he tried to attack a witness with either a pencil or a pen. The witness was testifying in the defendant’s trial, which had been a long, protracted case involving gang activity, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Spokeswoman Melodie Rydalch stated that the trial had been related to “a long-running” case involving the Tongan Crips in which Siale Angilau, the defendant, was allegedly involved. The Tongan Crips have been accused in the August 2007 shootings of two deputy U.S. Marshals. Angilau’s case, which has ended with a shooting, was the first to be heard in the new courthouse.
U.S. District Judge Tena Campbell, who was hearing the case, declared a mistrial. In her order, Campbell wrote that during Monday, which was the first day of the trial, Angilau attacked a prosecution witness and was shot multiple times by marshals. The shooting happened directly in front of the jury and the court. Angilau was then held near the jury box at gunpoint by several marshals until Salt Lake City police could arrive. Police indicate that they received the initial call to the U.S. District Court Building at approximately 9:45 a.m. Judge Campbell was forced to declare a mistrial after observing that the majority of the jury was “visibly shaken and upset” by the events that occurred, leading Campbell to rule that Angilau had no chance of a fair trial in front of a jury who had just seen him shoot a witness.
One witness, Perry Caldwell, was in the Salt Lake City courtroom waiting for his mother’s testimony regarding a robbery committed in 2002 when Angilau was just 14. At the time, Caldwell’s mother was working at a convenience store when Angilau rushed in, leaped over the counter and punched her. After stealing cigarettes and beer, he left the store. According to Caldwell, during today’s trial, Angilau sprang up from the defense table and rushed to the witness stand, appearing to be trying to hit the witness, who was dressed in prison- or jail-issued clothing. Caldwell relates that it was at this point that marshals fired 8 shots at Angilau. Even after he lay on the floor, Caldwell reports that they fired even more shots into him. He recalls being ordered by the court to take cover, at which point he and everyone else scrambled under the benches.
Angilou was on trial for racketeering for participating in what the prosecutors allege was a criminal undertaking responsible for murders and robberies. All told, 17 members of the group, including Angilou, were indicted on a total of 29 racketeering charges, including assault, conspiracy, robbery and weapons charges. Rydalch stated that of the 17 members indicted, Angilou’s trial was the last to take place, although it was the first to take place in the new Salt Lake City federal courthouse, which cost $185 million and has only been open for one week.
The FBI is currently performing an investigation into the case. FBI spokesperson Mark Dressen has stated that Angilau is in the hospital with at least one wound to his chest. The witness, who was attacked by a pen- or pencil-wielding Angilau, was not hurt. The attorneys representing Angilau, Mark Kittrell and Michael Langford have not yet responded to questions.
By Jennifer Pfalz