LIHUE — A judge set aside a probation plea agreement and sentenced a Kekaha man to a five-year prison term on Thursday in 5th Circuit Court.
Clifford Kalipuuwai Apo, 60, was sentenced to the full prison term for an offense that occurred on Dec. 28, 2012. He became upset with individuals who were barbecuing at Lucy Wright park in Waimea.
Chief Judge Randal Valenciano set aside the terms of the plea agreement because of difficulty with the violence. He said the defendant’s criminal history is “peppered with jail time including a 10-year prison term.
“You tried to burn someone’s face on a grill, and for no apparent reason other than they were barbecuing in the area,” Valenciano said. “You allege that the group was using drugs but really, they were just barbecuing.”
Apo was arrested on Jan. 11 and charged with second-degree assault. He pleaded no contest on April 15 to a C-felony count of attempted second-degree assault and two other charges were dropped.
County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Shauna Lee Cahill said the state recommended a year in jail with probation. This was in accordance with the plea deal, she said.
Cahill expanded on the incident to note that Apo approached the group and told at least one individual to “go back to the Philippines.” The defendant’s affiliations to Hawaiian sovereignty groups were more likely the motivation for the attack, she said. The allegations of drug use among the victims is not substantiated by the police reports.
“Mr. Apo’s history of violence does make prison an appropriate sentence,” said County Prosecuting Attorney Justin Kollar. “He has shown an inability to control his violent impulses and we are glad, in this case, that more serious injuries did not result from Mr. Apo’s actions.”
Court-appointed defense attorney George White said the defendant’s role in the incident, though regrettable, was not fueled by drugs, alcohol or rage. He said Apo was upset when individuals he believed were using drugs were acting up next to Hawaiian lands he says belong to his kuliana.
White said that the defendant takes responsibility for his conduct and that the victim considers Apo a friend. The two have since made amends, he said.
Apo has already served six months in jail, and prefers to keep quiet and to himself now that age and health have made him docile, White said. He asked the court to consider the gap in time since his Apo’s previous offenses.
“The defendant is not a danger to society,” White said.
Apo has 13 prior convictions including a 10-year prison sentence for kidnapping in 1992. That same year, he received a five-year sentence for ownership of possession of a firearm prohibited to persons convicted of certain crimes, and a year each for second-degree terroristic threatening, third-degree assault and reckless driving.
Apo served 90 days for driving while intoxicated, resisting arrest, and second-degree assault against a law enforcement officer in 2008. He also served less than 60 days time in other cases that year for inattentive driving, reckless driving, and two criminal contempt of court charges.