Defendant blames alcohol for assault

LIHU‘E — When the prosecution and the defense present very different perspectives on an incident, then the truth must be somewhere in between.

That was the sentiment expressed by Fifth Circuit Court Judge Kathleen Watanabe on Wednesday during the plea hearing of Lance-Clint Taniguchi-Fu, who accepted guilt on two counts of third-degree assault and will get 30 days and probation in what could have been two years.

Watanabe said the court has a low tolerance for assault and reminded Taniguchi-Fu that he was getting a big break, adding that if he doesn’t stay compliant with probation and other requirements, he could return to court and face the full sentencing.

The incident reportedly occurred at a residential party where Taniguchi-Fu stated that after drinking about 12 beers,  got into an argument with his girlfriend. The report said he then hit the owner, knocking him down, and also hit his juvenile son.

The attorneys differed on what occurred to a point.

Taniguchi-Fu’s attorney Daniel Hempey said that in the heat of the argument, the altercation was triggered when the owner of the home across the street became angry at them arguing and that Taniguchi-Fu lost his temper with the unwelcome interruption.

Deputy County Prosecutor Melinda Mendes offered a different view of the matter, saying that because the victim fell into his own home after being hit, that Taniguchi-Fu had to cross the street and yard to confront the victim. The victims were not present in court.

Taniguchi-Fu, 25, said in court that his actions were immediately regrettable and that he fully expresses his guilt and is willing to accept what the court decides in this matter.

Hempey described Taniguchi-Fu as a former honor student who is working full time and is now making the necessary changes to better his life, including giving up alcohol. He is claiming responsibility for his actions, Hempey added, but his personality is not consistent with repeated behavior.

Mendes said the court should not take this matter lightly given that Taniguchi-Fu had another arrest that resulted in probation when he was 19 years-old. She described that incident as an act of jealousy toward the new interest in her ex-girlfriend’s life.

Taniguchi-Fu received 30 days for each of the assault charges to run concurrently, along with one year of probation. Without the plea agreement, he could have faced a year in jail for each assault charge.

With the plea, Taniguchi-Fu must pay a victim compensation fee of $105, a $75 probation fee and a $500 fine. In addition, he is required to take anger management classes and an alcohol and drug assessment.

Watanabe ordered that Taniguchi-Fu not go near the victims or their property and that he may not patronize establishments where the primary products are alcoholic beverages.

Before walking out of the courtroom with the bailiff, Taniguchi-Fu motioned for his girlfriend to come take his wallet and then thanked Hempey and walked through the door to begin his sentence.

• Tom LaVenture, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 224) or by emailing tlaventure@ thegardenisland.com.

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