SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) – Three gang members convicted of committing a series of armed robberies over a decade ago have lost their second appeal over their convictions and their long sentences.

Sitamipa Toki, Eric Kamahele, and Kepa Maumau were convicted of various crimes including assault with a dangerous weapon in aid of racketeering, using, or carrying a firearm during a crime of violence, Hobbs Act robbery, and conspiracy to engage in racketeering.

Eric Kamahele, Kepa Maumau, Sitamipa Toki

In 2012, the judge over the case, U.S. District Court Judge Tena Campbell, was required to sentence Toki to 10 years, Kamahele to 30 years, and Maumau to 55 years, minimums set by federal mandatory minimum guidelines for crimes committed with weapons.

The three men appealed their convictions and sentences in Tenth Circuit arguing their cases didn’t qualify as crimes of violence for purposes of federal sentencing laws and their sentences were unconstitutional. In 2014, those appeals were denied.

The men appealed their cases again. Kamahele and Maumau claimed they received ineffective counsel from their attorneys at trial.

Kamahele had originally pleaded guilty and was expected to serve 12 years but changed his plea at the request of one of the other defendants. Kamahele said he was never advised of how much time he was facing if convicted after changing his plea, saying he didn’t “fully grasp the concept of federal mandatory minimum sentences” and his attorneys gave him different calculations of the amount of prison time he faced.

Maumau argued that while he was affiliated with a gang, his attorney’s errors prevented the jury
from realizing that some of his robberies were not motivated by his gang membership. Maumau, who had planned to play football for Weber State, said his attorney did not adequately investigate the argument his need to pay for college expenses was a non-gang motive for his participation in the robberies, including receipts from the school in his car.

Toki was released from federal prison on 4/24/2020, prior to the decision.

Tuesday, the Tenth Circuit denied the defendant’s motions and upheld the denial of those claims, meaning that men’s appeals once again were denied.