Crime & Courts

Anchorage man accused of beating teen in abandoned house pleads guilty to assault

One of four men accused of beating 18-year-old James Clinton, who Anchorage police found in September 2013 in the basement of a downtown house set for demolition, pleaded guilty last week to a single first-degree assault charge.

Michael Liufau originally faced three assault counts, as well as charges of hindering prosecution and coercion.

Charged in the alleged attack are 22-year-old Liufau, 19-year-old Iosia Fiso, 20-year-old Trevvor Trobough and 21-year-old Tye Manning. The trials of the three other men are set for Oct. 13; they face felony assault charges.

The four men were not all jailed until late November 2013. However, the investigation started when a tipster slipped a note under the door of the University of Alaska Anchorage Police Department the night of Sept. 16, according to the charges.

Clinton was "alone and dying" in an abandoned house, the note allegedly said. It also named three assailants, according to the charges. The tip led Anchorage police detective Jackie Conn to Liufau and Fiso, who were already in custody along with Manning for robbing a man at knife point in Town Square Park.

Liufau led officers to the abandoned house on Barrow Street, where they discovered Clinton lying at the bottom of a set of stairs with a bruised and swollen face and "assorted abrasions and bruises" over his body, according to the charges. He had been left in the house for two to three days, according to the charges.

Trobough was at the house but refused to speak to police, according to the charges.

By Oct. 7, 2013, Clinton had awoken from a coma but could not communicate. When Conn checked in on Clinton again on Nov. 12, he was able to feed himself and talk but was suffering from long- and short-term memory issues. The detective did not immediately respond to requests for an update on Tuesday.

Conn's investigation found the men and Clinton were drinking together at the abandoned house, and they beat up the teen because he flirted with Liufau's girlfriend.

According to Liufau's plea deal, he agreed to a sentence of six years with two years suspended, as well as three years of probation. In exchange, the state dropped four additional felony charges.

Liufau also pleaded in two other cases: an assault in late October 2013 and the downtown park robbery. The state is dropping its single charge of first-degree robbery in the latter case.

"The defendant agrees to testify truthfully at any subsequent hearings" and "restitution to all victims is to be determined," according to the plea agreement. Liufau's special conditions of probation indicate his Permanent Fund dividends will go toward the victims until restitution is paid in full.

His sentencing is set for Jan. 5.

Jerzy Shedlock

Jerzy Shedlock is a former reporter for Alaska Dispatch News. He left the ADN in 2017.