A martial arts expert who assaulted a man and his wife over Covid-19 views was upset because he felt his masculinity had been challenged, a judge has said before sentencing him to jail.

Stephen Raniera Rangi Elliot, 45, was sentenced in Napier District Court on Tuesday.

Elliot had been in custody since September, when a jury took less than two hours to find him guilty of assaulting a man and his wife following a disagreement over Covid-19, which occurred in a Napier second-hand shop.

After assaulting the couple Elliot posted a video on Facebook. In the video, filmed in front of the store, Elliot stated the man had punched him in the face, so he “knocked that motherf…… out cold”. When the man’s wife got involved “I threw that bitch to the ground”, he said.

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Elliot was in the Salvation Army Family Store in Taradale, Napier, on January 26, 2021​, speaking loudly as he told one of the shop assistants that he didn’t think Covid-19 was any worse than the common cold and that he didn’t think masks were necessary.

A man in the store took exception to what Elliot was saying. He approached Elliot and told him he was “talking shit”.


Stephen Elliot told police he’d been a martial artist since he was 10 years old. (File pic)

The victim told the court he had been upset by what Elliot was saying because his mother-in-law was in hospital dying of Covid.

When Elliot became angry and began pushing the man, the man’s wife stepped in and tried to explain why her husband was upset. At that point Elliot pushed the wife away. That prompted the man to punch Elliot in the face.

Elliot knocked the man to the ground. Witnesses, including the shop assistant and the man’s wife said Elliot then punched the man six times in the head. When the man’s wife tried to intervene again, Elliot pushed her away harder, throwing her into a counter.

Elliot said he defended himself against the man and his wife, who both attacked him and their son was about to attack him too but relented after Elliot warned him not to.


Stephen Elliot in the video he posted to Facebook shortly after the assault. (File photo)

“I’ve been a martial artist since I was 10 years old … It was actually my training that kicked in,” he said in a police interview.

Prior to sentencing by Judge Russell Collins, Elliot’s lawyer Leo Lafferty said Elliot was remorseful.

Crown prosecutor James Bridgman​ noted that a pre-sentence report said Elliot had some understanding of his actions but also that he appeared to minimise his offending.

Judge Collins said it was a difficult to understand why Elliot had reacted the way he did.

He said Elliot, who weighed 140kg, was extraordinarily physically powerful, and had reacted to what he saw as “a challenge to his masculinity”.

David White

Judge Russell Collins sentence Elliot in the Napier District Court. (File photo)

He said Elliot was prepared to provoke violence because he knew that in that situation “you were always going to be the winner”.

“If you stand back and look into your heart, this was not a self-defence case. There was no way in the world that you needed to do what you did to defend yourself. You were so much more powerful than [the victim],” Collins said.

He noted that Elliot had already spent four months in custody before sentencing him to 15 months in jail, with leave to apply for a substitute sentence of home detention.