Surf rage’ nets man six years

The “surf rage” assault on Steven Veillette, 33, by Solomon Fernandez, 25, in 2004 near Po’ipu Beach Park netted Fernandez six years in prison.

Fifth Circuit Court Judge Kathleen N.A. Watanabe, saying she feels Fernandez is a threat to society, ordered him imprisoned for six years for two assaults, including the one on Veillette in 2004 in waters off Po’ipu Beach Park in the surf break known as Waiohai.

Many Kaua’i residents, shocked at the brutality of what seemed like an unprovoked attack by a young man with a history of public displays of anger, pushed for Fernandez to be tried for a hate crime.

That didn’t happen.

When Fernandez and Veillette got tangled up paddling out to catch waves, Fernandez attacked, according to Veillette screaming at him, “I’m going to kill you, haole.”

Veillette received 15 stitches and three broken teeth in the attack, which he said was unprovoked. And he feared at the time of the attack in 2004 that Fernandez would do it again.

He did.

Fernandez was sentenced last week for the felony assault offense on Veillette, and for a misdemeanor assault offense last year where Fernandez allegedly slapped another person, causing pain and knocking the person’s sunglasses off his face.

According to county prosecutors, Fernandez entered guilty pleas to the offenses on Nov. 10, 2005. Watanabe also ordered Fernandez to pay $8,172 in restitution to Veillette, according to prosecutors.

Kaua’i Police Department officers arrested Fernandez on Sept. 7, 2004, and he was arraigned the following month, prosecutors said. He was arrested in the second case on Aug. 14, 2005.

Regarding the earlier assault, Veillette confirmed that he had witnessed Fernandez’s rowdy behavior before the attack.

“I’ve seen him (hassle) at least a half dozen people. Usually, I just ignore him,” Veillette said after the attack.

The incident began innocently enough, Veillette thought. The two were paddling back out to catch more waves, and their boards bumped. That immediately threw Fernandez into a furor, Veillette said.

The next thing Veillette knew, Fernandez jumped off his board and punched Veillette in the eye, Veillette said.

“I was bleeding so bad I couldn’t see anything. He just kept hitting me,” he said. “The only thing I heard (was), ‘I’m going to kill you, haole.'”

Veillette said he had to kick him off, and struggled to shore. Fernandez paddled back out to catch a few more waves.

“When I got to the beach, I started to realize how bad the damage really was,” he said. “He had the audacity to surf with his dad for another half hour.”

Veillette continued to wait on the shore, as he wanted to get Fernandez’s name, he said.

Eventually, he said, Marriott’s Waiohai Beach Club security agents came, and they called police and began to administer first aid.

But before police arrived, Fernandez’s father came to shore, Veillette confronted him, and the elder Fernandez also swore at him, and threatened him, Veillette said.

As the elder Fernandez drove away, Veillette got his license-plate number, and later got the younger Fernandez’s name from a mutual acquaintance, after failing to convince any of his fellow surfers to help him identify the younger Fernandez and tell police what happened in the water.

He passed the information on to police, who later made the arrest.

Veillette spent the rest of the day of the attack at Kalaheo Clinic, receiving stitches and feeling woozy, he said.

“He was trying to knock me out. If I (went) unconscious, I could’ve drowned,” Veillette said.

In court, Fernandez said he was sorry for what he did.

“I apologize,” he said, while wearing an orange jumpsuit from the Kaua’i Community Correctional Center.

Veillette said in court that Fernandez “jumped me from the side.”

Veillette said that he was off work for two months. He also said that he lost his last job because Fernandez showed up there.

“I’m financially bankrupt,” said Veillette.

Veillette said Fernandez threatened him, “that I should never show up again,” at Waiohai. He said that was the reason why he got a restraining order against Fernandez.

Court records show that Veillete got a restraining order in December 2004 against Fernandez.

Fernandez will also be behind bars for slapping another surfer across the face last February.

In that case, Deputy Public Defender John Calma said that Fernandez confronted a surfer who had allegedly stolen a board from Fernandez’s house.

Deputy Prosecuting Attorney John Calma said that Fernandez has a history of taking matters into his own hands.

Judge Watanabe said that Fernandez committed crimes of violence. She sentenced Fernandez to a total of six years in prison to protect people from a violent person.

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