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Arrows say newly signed player with criminal record deserves second chance

TORONTO — The Toronto Arrows say newly signed forward Taitusi Vikilani, who served time for manslaughter for his part in a fatal stabbing seven years ago outside a Burnaby, B.C., SkyTrain station, deserves a second chance.

Vikilani, the older brother of Arrows and Canada forward Siaki Vikilani, was sentenced to six months minus a day plus three years' probation in November 2017.

Another man, Jesse Sellam, was originally charged with second-degree murder but eventually pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the death of 27-year-old James Enright and was sentenced to four years six months in jail.

Enright died after being stabbed in the heart after coming to the aid of a friend outside the Edmonds SkyTrain station in February 2015.

Court heard Enright and his female friend were sitting in a parked car at the bus loop when Vikilani and Sellam, who had been drinking at a party, got involved with another group of men.

The court heard that Vikilani saw Enright's friend recording the altercation on her cellphone, went to the car and punched her in the face. When Enright got out to protect her, he was stabbed by Sellam.

Vikilani, now 25, was 18 at the time.

The high-profile case was later the subject of a TV documentary: "See No Evil: The Man in the Red Jacket."

The Arrows announced the signing of the older Vikilani on the weekend but made no mention of his criminal record. Asked about the signing, the Major League Rugby Club provided a statement.

"As a teenager, Taitusi made a mistake. He took responsibility for his wrongdoing, and paid his debt to society," the club said. "That debt has helped shape him into the young man he is today; someone who is genuinely remorseful about the pain he has caused, has learned from his transgression, and has earned a second chance."

Vikilani, from Burnaby, has spent the last three years as part of Rugby Canada’s national development academy. The Arrows said during that time Vikilani "has been a model athlete, displaying personal growth through his contrition and commitment to becoming a better person."

"In conducting our due diligence prior to signing Taitusi, members of our senior staff spoke with several of Taitusi’s current and former coaches and teammates," the club said in the statement. "Through dozens of conversations, the feedback we received was consistent across the board: Taitusi is passionate, hard-working, and has demonstrated strong character. He has, by all accounts, been a respected teammate both on and off the pitch.

"Taitusi’s mistake will always remain with him, and he does not hide from this. However, this should not preclude Taitusi from being granted an opportunity to rejoin society, especially based on his personal development over the last many years."

The club said believes Vikilani "possesses the values required to be a player for the Toronto Arrows, and that he’ll be an upstanding member of our organization."

The Arrows open the MLR season Feb. 6 at the Seattle Seawolves.

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 24, 2022

Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press