Sarita gets 5 years for teacher assault

LIHU’E — A 16-year-old boy will be behind bars for up to five years for attacking a teacher with a machete, and for damaging that teacher’s truck last year.

Andrew Sarita was sentenced Tuesday for first-degree attempted assault against Timothy O’Rourke, and for second-degree criminal property damage on O’Rourke’s truck, at Kaua’i High School in November, 2004.

Sarita apologized for his actions.

“I am very, very sorry. I was only 16 at the time. I could not think straight,” he said.

Sarita is being held at the Kauai Community Correctional Center in Wailua.

Public Defender John Calma said that, in the days leading up to the attack, Sarita acted on impulse, and like a child. He added that Sarita was on medication for bipolar disorder.

Calma said that Sarita “heard voices,” and that the voices stopped after Sarita stopped using the medication.

Sarita was put into the high school’s alternative-learning center, and was therefore separated from the school’s general population. Calma said that Sarita was labeled as a “troublemaker,” was called “stupid,” and that Sarita lived up to those labels.

On the day of the attack, Calma said that Sarita swung a machete that teacher O’Rourke grabbed, and was injured by it. O’Rourke then “kicked Andrew out the door,” and closed and locked the door, said Calma. “There was no attempt to murder,” said Calma, adding that Sarita “vented” on O’Rourke’s truck.

Sarita was originally charged with second-degree attempted murder. In August, he pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of first-degree attempted assault. He also pleaded guilty to the criminal-property-damage charge.

County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Ken Norelli argued that Sarita was not an appropriate youthful-offender candidate. He pointed out that medical professionals who examined Sarita found him to be competent, and that there was no schizophrenia involved.

“What this is, is a person that acted violently. The teacher did not ask to be chased with a machete. He did not ask for that attack,” said Norelli.

Norelli said that O’Rourke was traumatized by the incident.

Judge Kathleen Watanabe pointed out that she was glad that Sarita’s attorney did not ask for probation. She also said it would be a mistake to set Sarita free.

“You made a conscious decision to ride to school and go after your teacher,” Watanabe said to Sarita.

Watanabe also ordered Sarita not to have contact with O’Rourke and his family, and to pay $249 in restitution.

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