LIHU‘E — It was an emotional courtroom Thursday when several members of the Gloria Agcaoili family were present to recall the tragic crash that took her life.
Gloria Robles Agcaoili, 70, was a passenger in a car driven by her son, James Agcaoili, 39, when the two were returning to their Koloa home after selling produce at a farmers market on June 1, 2010.
Wayne D. Siegel, 48, of Marlboro, N.J., was driving west on Kuhio Highway when he crossed the yellow line and collided with the east-bound Agcaoili vehicle.
James Agcaoili suffered serious injuries to his feet and his mother died at the scene. Siegel survived without serious injury and was charged with first-degree negligent homicide.
The charges were reduced to second degree in the indictment on Aug. 26, 2010. After a motion to reduce the charges to misdemeanor was withdrawn by the defense, Siegel entered a no contest plea to the charges on June 27.
Gloria Agcaoili’s sister Alinda Agcaoili and James Agcaoili were allowed to address the court before sentencing. They spoke at length and in tears about the impact on their family from the way their family member was suddenly taken from them.
Gloria Agcaoili was born in San Simon, Bacarra, Philippines in 1939, and James pointed out she died 27 days short of her 71st birthday. Siegel looked directly at the family members as they spoke.
James Agcaoili tried to recall the seconds between the car coming across the lane and the violent collision. He recalled his feet were in pain and found it difficult to move them.
He expected to see his mother arrive in a second ambulance behind him at the hospital and said he didn’t know that she was deceased at the scene where the investigation continued.
Defense attorney Daniel Hempey described Siegel as a hardworking family man with a wife of 16 years and three children. He said Siegel, on a Kaua‘i dream vacation, was returning to his wife at a rented condo when he fainted at the wheel.
A battery of toxicology tests showed that Siegel was not impaired. A series of toxicology reports could not find a medical reason for the fainting. Tests also showed there was no presence of any drugs or alcohol.
Hempey said Siegel has not driven a motor vehicle since the accident.
Siegel addressed the court, expressing sorrow and regret to the Agcaoili family, and that the incident continues to impact himself and his family. He was prepared to accept whatever judgment the court handed down.
First Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Jake Delaplane said the Agcaoili family still had an open wound from the incident and were justifiably upset and wanted jail time for the defendant.
Delaplane said the state offered the reduced plea to second-degree negligent homicide and second-degree negligent injury but that the defense motion for deferred acceptance of the no contest plea should not be approved.
Deferred acceptance would dismiss the conviction after the terms of probation were carried out successfully. Delaplane said denying the motion would let the Agcaoili family know that Siegel would always carry the reminder — and that perhaps their wound would heal to a scar.
Fifth Circuit Chief Judge Randal Valenciano said it was a difficult case and no one would leave the court happy. The Agcaoili family lost its matriarch who served as the glue to hold the family together, he said.
This was also an unexplained tragedy, Valenciano said, and did not present an obvious cause from intoxication, speeding or reckless driving or some other distraction from a cell phone or texting. Without evidence in the elements of intent and state of mind there was nothing to increase the measure of guilt.
Valenciano said Siegel was eligible for the deferment but denied it, saying it would be the burden he carried that might provide the family some comfort. He sentenced Siegel to one-year’s probation and ordered him to pay the two restitution charges to the family in the amounts of $4,043.42 and $6,669.64.
Siegel will also have to undergo further psychological and medical assessments and treatment as determined by the probation officers.
• Tom LaVenture, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 224) or by emailing tlaventure@ thegardenisland.com.