New Zealand road rage hammer attacker sent to prison for five years

A man caught on a security camera severely injuring a truck driver with a claw-hammer in a brutal road rage attack was sentenced to five years in prison Thursday.

Toma Lauaki, 35, earlier admitted one count of wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm when he appeared in the Manukau District Court in the northern city of Auckland.

The offense, which shocked New Zealanders, carried a maximum 14-year prison sentence.

Judge Jane Lovell-Smith told Lauaki the starting point for his crime was seven years in prison.

But she had taken into account his early guilty plea, the fact he was under severe emotional stress at the time because of his wife's illness, and his genuine remorse.

"What you did, Mr. Lauaki, was to take the law into your own hands which cannot be condoned in our society," she said before passing sentence.

Lauaki's lawyer, Frank Hogan, said the hammer attack followed a traffic incident in which there was some dangerous and terrifying driving by the victim, Barry Fletcher. He said Lauaki now wanted to express his remorse to the victim and his family.

Fletcher, who suffered multiple bone fractures in the attack and was at the sentencing, said the five year sentence was an excellent result and longer than he expected.

He accepted Lauaki's expression of remorse and his apology.

"I have no doubt he was trying to kill me," Fletcher said from his hospital bed shortly after the attack. "He kept yelling ... 'apologize, apologize.' I kept saying 'I'm sorry, I don't know what I've done.' He had these massive black pupils filled with insane, uncontrollable anger."

Lauaki had then grabbed Fletcher's jacket and dragged him from the cab. As he fell two meters (six feet) from the driver's seat, his left wrist snapped as he hit the ground.

Fletcher said the man was "standing over me with the hammer, lining up my head" when another truck pulled into the driveway.

Lauaki's wife Valeti refused comment on the sentence or whether it would be appealed.

She supported her husband "100 percent," she told reporters, AP reported. V.A.

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