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Parole hearings held for three defendants in DJ Bell beating

Parole hearings held for three defendants in DJ Bell beating

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SALT LAKE CITY — A father sentenced to prison for the brutal beating of a gay man and his partner says he's sorry the incident happened.

But during a parole hearing last week for Ricky Peace at the Utah State Prison, he seemed to still have strong feelings about the victims' role in the incident.

"I know what he did, he knows what he did. And he tries to put it off like he was totally innocent from the beginning, this is 100 percent our fault, he had nothing to do with anything, he did nothing wrong, when I know for a fact him, his boyfriend — they both admitted he kidnapped our kids," Peace said. "Yeah, he may have got acquitted. But evidence was hidden and he knows it, that he was guilty."

Peace's statement came during a parole hearing for three of the men convicted in the beating of David "DJ" Bell and Dan Fair on July 4, 2008.

Peace, 35, Ieti Mageo, 34, and Ietitaia Tavita Nuusila, 27, were sentenced in May to zero to five years in prison after pleading guilty to aggravated burglary, aggravated assault and rioting, all third-degree felonies.

Last week, all three men had their initial parole hearing.

In 2008, Peace and several others, who had been drinking during an all-night party, thought that Bell had kidnapped Peace's 4-year-old son and 2-year-old niece. The two children were found in Bell's home next door.

Tapululululu Latu, 31, who was sentenced to a year in jail, took the children out of the house and reportedly told Bell and Fair to, "lock your (expletive) door, because when my family finds out, they will kill you."

Minutes later, at least five people broke open Bell's door and severely beat both men. Bell suffered a brain injury and has permanent partial hearing loss because of the attack. Fair had a television smashed on his head, crushing his right eye socket.

Bell claimed the children had wandered over to his home and he was providing shelter for them. He was initially charged with kidnapping but later acquitted during a trial.

After Bell was acquitted, Peace and six others were charged with assault and other related crimes.

During the parole hearing, Peace, Mageo and Nuusila all admitted they had been drinking. Nuusila, who said he has battled an alcohol addiction all his life, said he had consumed at least 30 beers that night.

"That night I feel I made a bad judgment call and took the law into my own hands and I regret it with all my heart," he said during the hearing, while agreeing with a statement from his attorney that he got caught up in a mob mentality. "I just got caught in the heat of the moment — did things that I shouldn't have done."

Peace also admitted he could have handled the situation better. At the time, however, he said his concern was helping his son.

"I just had fear for my son and my niece, it's kind of difficult to be thrown in a situation like that," he said. "At that moment, when you feel like you have only seconds to react, and you have that fear of possible harm that could be done to your children, it's a very difficult thing."

Peace said he did not know that the children were already out of the house when he confronted Bell.

But when asked about why he reacted so violently, Peace said that he was the one who was in "fear for his life" when he entered the home saying he didn't know how many people were inside Bell's home and feared someone might shoot him.

Peace also seemed to downplay his attack on Bell, saying that when he caught up with him, "we were exchanging punches — we got into a fight and then I left him."

At that moment, when you feel like you have only seconds to react, and you have that fear of possible harm that could be done to your children, it's a very difficult thing.

–Ricky Peace

When Utah Board of Pardons and Parole hearing officer Cathy Crawford asked what condition he left Bell in, Peace said, "He was laying on the ground."

Bell and Fair were not present for the hearing. The couple has moved to Seattle since Bell was acquitted.

Peace called his actions "inexcusable," and noted that, "Obviously I don't make very wise decisions sometimes when I drink."

But Peace said he also believed there was evidence that was not presented during Bell's trial that should have been.

"He believes it's a game. He knows he got away with one that he shouldn't have," he said.

Crawford did not know say what recommendation she would be making to the full parole board, which will have a decision on all three defendants in a few weeks.

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Pat Reavy


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