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University of Utah football player dismissed after assault, kidnapping charges

Published February 22, 2013 9:41 pm

College football • Niasi Leota allegedly beat his wife in the presence of their 2-year-old child.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

A University of Utah defensive lineman has been dismissed from the team after being charged with aggravated assault and kidnapping for allegedly beating and threatening to kill his wife.

Koliniasi "Niasi" Leota was charged Friday in Salt Lake City's 3rd District Court with one count each of first-degree felony aggravated assault and kidnapping, and third-degree felony domestic violence in the presence of a child. Four misdemeanor domestic violence charges were also filed.

In court papers, Salt Lake County prosecutors contend that Leota, 24, punched his wife in the face, causing her to bleed. Leota, who is 6-foot-4 and 278 pounds, attacked his wife again in the bathroom, striking her head with a curling iron and a towel rod that he ripped out of the wall and also attempted to stab her with, court papers say. Prosecutors allege Leota wrapped the curling iron cord around his wife's neck in an effort to choke her and tried to electrocute her by filling the bathtub with water and tossing in the curling iron.

Leota also prevented his wife from leaving the apartment, grabbing her by the hair and dragging her back inside, court papers say.

The alleged assault occurred in front of the couple's 2-year-old child.

Leota's wife was able to escape and lock herself in a car when another person arrived at the home with the couple's two older children.

Leota was arrested and remained in jail on Friday. Bail is set at $250,000. An initial court appearance is set for Feb. 25.

Leota, who played in 10 games for the Utes as a junior, was suspended and now has been dismissed in response to the formal charges, according to a Friday statement from Utah coach Kyle Whittingham.

"We will do everything we can to help Niasi and his family get through this situation, but obviously we do not tolerate this kind of behavior," Whittingham said.

Leota is the second player in the last two months Whittingham has dismissed.

In January, walk-on Afa Bridenstine was dismissed after he was sentenced for assault in a road rage incident that took place in September. Bridenstine, a freshman, never played for the Utes.

Lya Wodraska contributed to this story.

jdobner@sltrib.com