Moala gets 18 months for burning his own car

LIHU‘E — The man who set his car on fire in the Kapa‘a Beach Park lot received the maximum jail term allowed with probation Thursday in 5th Circuit Court.

Samiuela Moala, 41, of Kapa‘a was sentenced to five years probation and 18 months in jail for the second-degree arson of his truck while it was parked at Kapa‘a Beach Park the early afternoon of Oct. 24. He has been in jail since his arrest.

Moala chose not to make a statement to the court for his sentencing on Thursday. He was assisted by Tongan interpreter Lois Tiedemann.

Defense attorney Rosa Flores said Moala did not believe he was doing anything illegal by burning his car. He was candid with officers about his property, but she said his intent was not to harm anyone.

County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Rebecca Vogt said Moala doused his vehicle with gasoline and set it on fire. She said there were cars parked in neighboring spots with people that had to move away to escape possible injury.

Kaua‘i Fire Department personnel responded to the scene, extinguished the fire and turned the investigation over to police. Moala was located and arrested a short time later and was charged with second-degree arson abd first-degree reckless endangerment.

Moala changed his plea to guilty of a reduced charge of second-degree arson on March 5. The prosecution dropped the second charge.

With a failed probation from a prior conviction that led to an open term sentence, Vogt recommended a 10-year prison sentence, noting that Moala himself said he would not succeed on probation. The sentence is the maximum allowable for a class B felony offense.

Vogt also noted that Moala was in a fight while in custody.

Chief Judge Randal Valenciano said the criminal record including violence made it difficult to weigh in the defendant’s favor. He said it is not clear what motivated Moala to burn is car and that it was fortunate no one was hurt.

The judge said he agreed in part with Moala that he had the right to do what he wanted to the car he owned. It was what he did and where he did it that the judge said was the issue.


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