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Transcripts offer insight into fatal shooting at courthouse in Utah

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Posted at 9:59 PM, Apr 23, 2014
and last updated 2014-04-23 23:59:17-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- Two days after a known gang member was shot and killed during his trial at the federal courthouse, transcripts detailing the final moments have been released.

Siale Angilau's lawyer tried to prevent the witness who was attacked from testifying. Angilau’s attorney, Michael Langford, said the witness, Vaiola Tenifa, had a personal bias against Angilau but Langford was overruled and that may have added to increased tensions.

The morning of the trial, Angilau was upset over jail conditions. His lawyer said, according to the transcripts, "He wasn't even able to take a shower, Judge. He's locked up in supermax, and he's not in the best of moods, understandably, this morning."

But Angilau promised to behave, the transcripts say.

Judge Tena Campbell: "I don't want to interfere with jail security or anything, but Mr. Angilau has been in front of me, and it's been a long time, and he's no problem whatsoever. You'll be on your best behavior, right, Mr. Angilau?"

Angilau: "Yeah."

Less than an hour later, he was shot after trying to attack Tenifa, a convicted TCG member, while he was on the witness stand.

“He was discussing Tongan gangs and the different features of it," said federal court clerk Mark Jones

Tenifa testified that after young potential gang members committed crimes, they're either “blessed in” to TCG by older members or they're “jumped in,” beaten by fellow gang members. Some are groomed as young as 11. Seconds later, when Tenifa was talking about graffiti, which is just general information, Angilau snapped and lunged towards the witness.

According to the transcripts, an unidentified voice screamed out, “whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa.”

A U.S. Marshal shot Angilau multiple times. He later died at the hospital, and federal court clerk Mark Jones believe the shooting was justified.

"We feel having the jury so close by and the witness and the judge, the way they responded saved other injuries and possibly other lives," Jones said. "Also we feel fortunate to be in this building, if it would've been in the other building there could have been casualties because of the smaller well in between the defendant and the jury box and the witness."

Langford wouldn’t talk about the shooting itself but said he had represented Siale Angilau for four years and never felt he was a violent man, even though Angilau pleaded guilty to crimes that painted a different picture. Langford isn’t sure why his client snapped but doesn’t believe the testimony angered Angilau.

Langford said Angilau was upset he was being prosecuted for his crimes twice. Angilau already pleaded guilty to state charges and his lawyer said that, as part of a plea deal, Angilau thought he wouldn’t face federal charges. However, his attorney said the feds reneged on the deal and pressed on with a racketeering case, leaving Angilau feeling betrayed.