Sgt. First Class Ronald Dela Cruz, Station Commander and Army Recruiter based in Lihu’e, waived his right to trial in Fifth Circuit Court in Lihu’e, Judge Clifford Nakea presiding, by accepting a plea agreement from the prosecutor’s office in a case that charged him with assault in the third degree and unauthorized entry of a motor vehicle.
Dela Cruz, 37, entered a plea of guilty to the assault charge, a misdemeanor, and the unauthorized entry charge (a class C felony) was dropped. He was accused of reaching into a vehicle and assaulting a Lihu’e woman at a parking lot at Kukui Grove Shopping Center in May.
According to court records, he asked her to accompany him in his car for a ride home. She refused and instead got into another car with a friend, when Dela Cruz reportedly grabbed her arm. The case was brought up from the District Court in September. The victim later withdrew her complaint.
“I was trying to do the right thing the wrong way. Now I’m just looking for some closure…I’m just trying to get this over with,” Dela Cruz explained.
Dela Cruz represented himself, and opted at the last minute to accept Judge Nakea’s suggestion to petition for a deferred acceptance of guilty plea. Thus, he will be eligible to apply for the arrest to be expunged from his record after a waiting period.
County Prosecuting Attorney David Rawlings represented the State of Hawaii and assisted Dela Cruz with the plea agreement. Nakea said the choice for deferred acceptance of guilty plea would be worth it for Dela Cruz, who illustrated that he was proud of having a clean record.
With 17 years of Army service and no criminal record, Nakea sentenced Dela Cruz following the terms of the plea agreement and accepted the petition for deferred acceptance. Nakea also waived the one-year waiting period after completing a required anger management course, so Dela Cruz can get his record clean again. Dela Cruz was not sentenced to probation or jail time, but was sentenced to pay a $500 fine and $50 fee for crime victims’ compensation.
Freedom Harmony, 23, of Koloa, incarcerated since at Kauai Community Correctional Center, pleaded not guilty to terroristic threatening.
Harmony is scheduled to appear in Circuit Court Thursday for a jury-waived trial. He has a hearing pending for another district court case also involving terroristic threatening and resisting arrest.
As his public defender Jim Itamura and prosecutor Craig De Costa discussed something privately with Judge Nakea, Harmony pointed his hand like a gun and “shot” himself in the head.
Verna Huddy, whose case was committed to Fifth Circuit Court from the Kawaihau District Court in September after she pleaded not guilty, was accused of reckless endangerment in the second degree and attempted assault in the second degree.
She accepted a plea offer from the prosecutor’s office and agreed to plead guilty to reckless endangerment for the other charge to be dropped.
Records showed that Huddy approached her ex-boyfriend, who was parked in a county vehicle; leaned into the truck and as they drove away, pulled a trash picker from the truck bed and threw it into the open window of the truck, “narrowly missing” the occupants, prosecutor David Rawlings said.
Public defender Edmund Acoba disagreed, and said that a preliminary hearing showed that Huddy was not aiming for anything when she threw an object from the truck.
Huddy herself admitted to grabbing the stick, but only to “break her fall.” She said she was leaning on the truck’s window frame when he drove away, causing her to lose her balance.
“It wasn’t intentional, but it was reckless,” she said after hearing Nakea explain the charge of “second-degree reckless endangerment.” Nakea will decide on the motion for deferred acceptance of guilty plea February 6. She would face a maximum of 5 years imprisonment.
Eleanor Lewis, also known as Elenor Lewis, requested assistance from the public defenders’ office. Lewis is charged with negotiating a worthless negotiable instrument (writing a ‘bad check’) and theft in the second degree (property worth more than $300). Lewis needs a sign language interpreter to be able to communicate in court. A friend who also put up her car as collateral for Lewis’ bond attempted the task, but Nakea wanted someone in a more official capacity. As there are no people on Kaua’i willing to sign in the courts, the state will have to get someone from O’ahu. Lewis next court hearing is Nov. 25.
Accused sex offender Pohaku Matsuura was asked by Judge Clifford Nakea to return to court this Thursday, where he will face jury-waived trial.
He was indicted in September by grand jury on three counts of fourth-degree sexual assault in two separate cases.
Staff Writer Kendyce Manguchei can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 245-3681 (ext. 252).