Whitman County Prosecutor Denis Tracy on Monday declined to charge Washington State football safety Shalom Luani in connection with a fight at a Pullman Domino’s Pizza that left one man with a broken nose and Luani with a concussion.
Tracy said the investigation showed that Luani probably threw the punch Aug. 24 that broke the nose of Kyle Medina, but that a jury would also probably believe that Luani was acting in self defense.
In a letter written to the man who suffered the broken nose, Medina, Tracy explained his rationale for not pursuing the case against Luani. While the injury Medina suffered would warrant a felony charge, Tracy said he had to consider other factors.
“In this case, I believe there is enough evidence from which a jury could conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Luani hit Mr. Medina, once, with a fist to the nose, breaking the nose,” Tracy wrote. “In this case, it is my view that no reasonable jury could conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Luani was not acting in self defense.”
Speaking at his 12:30 p.m. weekly news conference, coach Mike Leach was asked about the Luani case.
“I don’t have anything to say about it,” Leach said. “I’m just rooting for justice to happen on all fronts.”
In his letter released at 1:35 p.m., Tracy wrote that he carefully reviewed police reports and an accompanying video, which showed Luani pushing Medina inside the pizza parlor before the scrum moved outside.
“Although there does appear to be some physical contact in that push, Mr. Medina is not injured in any way,” Tracy said. “Mr. Medina quickly follows Mr. Luani outside, and is in turn quickly followed by a number of other young men.”
Investigators did not have video of what happened outside the Domino’s, “but according to witness statements, Mr. Medina ‘came after’ Luani, in order to ‘retaliate’ for being pushed,” Tracy wrote. “In the ensuing altercation, Mr. Medina was hit once and got the broken nose. Mr. Luani may have hit other of the men that were confronting him.”
Luani also received several blows and was pushed to the ground “and possibly his head pushed into a car,” Tracy wrote. Luani “suffered multiple injuries to his face and head, had his shirt ripped, and according to a medical report, suffered a concussion.”
A friend of Luani’s happened to be passing by during the fight and “saw him being hit and stepped in to stop the fight,” Tracy wrote. “Given all of that, in my opinion no reasonable jury could conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that the punch to Mr. Medina’s nose was not in self defense.”
Tracy said that while it appeared that Luani was acting in self defense for the assault that broke Medina’s nose, the prosecutor also considered a charge of misdemeanor assault for the pushing that occurred in the Domino’s prior to the fight that spilled outside.
“However, both Mr. Medina and Mr. Luani, as the victims of these minor assaults, have requested that no charges be filed against the other,” Tracy wrote.
Leach suspended Luani for the first game in connection with the pushing incident. Luani played in the loss to Boise State and the win over Idaho. In two games, he has recorded seven total tackles and has intercepted two passes.
In other news, Tracy said his office continues to review the case against linebacker Logan Tago, who was arrested on Sept. 12 on felony robbery charges stemming from a June 4 incident in which a 23-year-old man claimed that someone, later identified as Tago, punched him and stole his case of beer.
Tracy said he has a busy week and likely won’t have the Tago review completed before Oct. 4 or Oct. 5.
The prosecutor’s office still hasn’t received the reports from the Pullman Police Department about the July 23 fight at a house party that left one man with a concussion and another with a broken jaw.
As a result of that investigation, officers on Sept. 16 arrested defensive linemen Robert Barber and Toso “T.J”. Fehoko on the charges of felony assault and two WSU students for disorderly conduct on allegations that they instigated actions from other football players during the fight.
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