Final defendant has court date in spree of robberies, assaults

In what prosecutors are calling “a savage series of crimes,” the last of six teenagers arrested in a string of random beatings and robberies in Menlo Park appeared in court Monday.

Retired Commissioner Joseph Gruber set Sipukako Tony Vailala’s bail at $50,000 in the case. Vailala, 18, remains in San Mateo County jail along with his codefendants, 18-year-olds John Mahe, Malakai Mataele and Holomesi Tuineau. A 14-year-old and a 17-year-old remain in juvenile hall. All of the teens have pleaded not guilty.

Each faces three counts of robbery, one count of commercial burglary and three counts of felony assault — charges that carry up to 10 years in state prison for the adults in the case.

Prosecutors say the East Palo Alto teens began their crime spree Feb. 24 in the parking lot of a Menlo Park Safeway, where they allegedly beat a security guard.

Next, they allegedly attacked a 63-year-old man, leaving him hospitalized with a blood clot on the brain and a fractured nose, eye socket and jaw.

“It’s just a pack of wolves mentality” said Chief Deputy District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe.

Prosecutors believe the group then spotted a 37-year-old man and attacked him, stealing his cell phone. The victim suffered severe cuts and bruises. He was treated at Stanford Hospital and released.

tbarak@examiner.com

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