Fortunate defendants get probation over jail

It was an eventful week in 5th Circuit Court.

For starters, District Court Judge Trudy Senda presided over three courtrooms last Monday, filling in for Circuit Court Judges Randal Valenciano and Kathleen Watanabe, who were both out for conferences. She handled Valenciano’s calendar at 8 a.m., followed by Watanabe’s sometime after 9 a.m.

In addition, Senda presided over her own District Court cases in the afternoon — and all with an injured foot.

Judge Valenciano was back on Tuesday and presided over both courtrooms until Judge Watanabe returned on Wednesday.

In Valenciano’s court on Thursday, a 29-year-old Hanapepe man was granted a five-year deferment on his felony second-degree theft sentence after forging a check.

The sentence follows a Jan. 31 plea, where the state agreed to drop a misdemeanor fourth-degree theft charge along with three counts of felony second-degree forgery.

County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Rebecca Vogt said the defendant had forged a check for $200 from an account belonging to the daughter and sister of his girlfriend. She said the state did not object to the deferment.

Defense counsel June Ikemoto said that drugs were the root problem, and that he is working and has a child to support.

Valenciano said the difficulty with the case is that the defendant stole from family. He said that is hard to mend, and that paying restitution was a good start.

The crime was to feed a drug habit and unless that is addressed, the defendant will be caught in a revolving door leading back to court, Valenciano said. He added a three-day jail sentence and a substance abuse evaluation in addition to the probation.

Another defendant on Thursday received a five-year deferment for a violent altercation after being caught stealing alcoholic beverages from a grocery store last November.

“I have never felt so humiliated,” said the defendant. “I don’t how else to apologize.”

State Deputy Public Defender Christian Enright said the young Kapa‘a woman has had a tragic life, and that this incident shows a need for treatment and not jail.

County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Melinda Mendes requested an alcohol and drug abuse assessment as terms of the deferment.

Valenciano said the case was essentially a shoplifting charge that became a second-degree robbery with two counts of third-degree assault when a store loss prevention officer intervened. In addition, there were alcohol compliance officers present who were injured when they intervened.

The judge recognized there was already jail time served following the arrest and granted the deferment with an order for an alcohol and drug assessment.

A 31 year-old Hanama‘ulu man received two years’ probation and three days in jail on Thursday for a domestic violence incident in July 2011. He pleaded guilty to two counts of family or household member abuse in January.

The incident occurred when the defendant came home after some disappointing news and wanted to be left alone, according to State Deputy Public Defender John Calma. His sister and other siblings persisted in trying to get to the heart of the problem.

When a sister pinched his arm, he reacted with force and she fell backward and was injured, Calma added.

“I apologize to the court and to my family,” said the defendant. “I wish I could go back to that day.”

County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Lisa Arin said this act of violence against his own family is not an isolated event, and included an aggravated injury to his brother who was healing from surgery to his jaw.

Judge Valenciano said families are there to support us. He said for this to happen is just a bad situation, and that the viciousness and total loss of control by the defendant in striking people and property are disturbing.

The defendant has made overtures to make amends to his family and this is positive, Valenciano said. He also ordered him to take a domestic violence intervention course and undergo a substance abuse evaluation.

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