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Former University of Utah football player pleads guilty to domestic violence

Published June 10, 2013 2:30 pm

Courts • Koliniasi "Niasi" Leota will be sentenced in July.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated.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 former University of Utah defensive lineman pleaded guilty Monday to abusing his wife in the presence of their child in a plea deal with prosecutors that may have spared the former football player years in state prison.

Koliniasi "Niasi" Leota, 24, will be sentenced next month in 3rd District Court for third-degree felony domestic violence in the presence of a child, a charge that carries a maximum sentence of five years in the Utah State Prison.

In exchange for the guilty plea, prosecutors dropped six other charges, including aggravated kidnapping and aggravated assault. If Leota was convicted of aggravated kidnapping, a first-degree felony, he could have faced up to life behind bars.

Prosecutors have alleged that Leota, who is 6-foot-4 and 278 pounds, punched his wife in the face on Feb. 17 at the couple's Salt Lake City apartment. The strike, authorities said, caused the woman to bleed.

Leota then attacked his wife again in the bathroom, according to charging documents, striking her head with a curling iron and a towel rod that he ripped from the wall and with which he attempted to stab her.

Prosecutors have alleged that Leota wrapped the curling iron around his wife's neck in an effort to strangle her. When that didn't work, they said, he tried to electrocute her by filling the bathtub with water and tossing in the curling iron.

During the assault, Leota's wife tried to flee the apartment, but he dragged her back inside, documents state. The couple's 2-year-old allegedly witnessed the attack.

Leota's wife eventually 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 dismissed from the football team in February after charges were filed in 3rd District Court. He had played in 10 games for the Utes as a junior. mlang@sltrib.com

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