LIHUE — A burglar will have a chance at probation, but with a hefty restitution order, following sentencing in 12 separate felony cases Thursday in 5th Circuit Court.
Aron Nagao, 19, of Kapaa, was sentenced to 18 months jail and a five-year term of felony probation on 17 charges of burglary, theft and criminal property damage that stemmed from a methamphetamine-fueled crime spree in 2012. If Nagao fails at probation the state could request a revocation, and the court could resentence him to prison from 10 years to several decades.
“You went on a crime spree, and the reason you did was because of a drug addiction,” said Chief Judge Randal Valenciano.
The judge said the court must balance the defendant’s background with the need to address a serious addiction, and to fashion an appropriate sentence for the severity of the charges. He said the court is not confident that Nagao will follow through, but would at least afford him that opportunity.
“You’re a young person without a criminal history, but when you fell into the drug world, you fell hard,” Valenciano added. “I want to give you the opportunity to prove the state wrong and succeed on probation.”
Nagao pleaded no contest on April 18. The charges included nine counts of first-degree burglary, six counts of second-degree theft, two counts of fourth-degree theft, six counts of unauthorized control of a privately-owned vehicle, six counts of first-degree unauthorized entry, two counts of third-degree criminal property damage, and four counts of credit card theft.
The restitution orders in the cases collectively total $44,348.62. A hearing to reconsider a $24,311.40 restitution in one case is scheduled for Sept. 26.
County Prosecuting Attorney Justin Kollar said the sentence is disappointing, given that the defendant repeatedly broke into homes to steal from people in his community.
“His decisions forever changed the lives of his victims,” Kollar said. “It’s our job to keep our community safe, and we believe prison is the appropriate way to protect the community from this defendant.”
County Second Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Rebecca Vogt said the state objected to probation and asked for the full 10-year prison term. She said the defendant has not performed well in custody at Kauai Community Correctional Center.
She said Nagao has been caught fighting, running a store and even talking about escaping. Three past efforts at drug rehabilitation have failed, and he walked away from the only two jobs he ever held.
“He is a management problem,” Vogt said.
Nagao was represented by State Public Defender John Calma in six cases, and by court-appointed defense attorney Caren Dennemeyer in the other six. The two argued in favor of probation with inpatient drug treatment and drug court.
Nagao is a bright individual who was a gifted athlete and student, and who has the support of a good family, Calma said. The crime spree occurred after the defendant’s drug appetite grew to the point where he was ingesting meth intravenously.
The crimes occurred largely between Aug. 14 and Sept. 11, 2012. Nagao and co-defendants or accomplices victimized 16 area residents and one business in Kapaa, Wailua, Hanamaulu and Lihue.
Nagao pleaded no contest in 12 cases, involving eight home break-ins, six car thefts, 10 car break-ins and thefts and property damages that accumulated to more than $40,000 in losses.
“I want to say I am sorry to all of the people that I hurt and take full responsibility for my actions,” said Nagao in his statement to the court. “I also want to thank my family for supporting me.”
Vogt said the victims were traumatized to the point where one person moved, and another couple canceled their traditional Christmas celebration. Several victims reported anxiety and lack of sleep from no longer feeling safe in their homes. They have since installed expensive alarm and video surveillance systems.
One victim addressed the court in person.
The man reported losing treasured items of sentimental and financial value that cannot be replaced. This included gift jewelry, a rare ukulele that belonged to a grandfather, and a life-long silver dollar collection.
He and his spouse have since spent more than $7,000 to have a sense of security in their home. They also purchased hand guns and have taken a firearms safety course.
The co-defendant Kamron Cortez, 18, of Hanamaulu, was sentenced on May 9 to 18 months jail and probation.
A third co-defendant in some of the cases, Frank Daligdig, 30, of Lihue, will be sentenced on Sept. 19.