A broken heart and probation

Judge Kathleen Watanabe said there seemed to be a common theme during her sentencings this week in 5th Circuit Court.

Three defendants were sentenced in different cases to felony probation with some jail time. The crimes varied but were all committed after the defendant responded poorly to a disappointment involving a significant other.

From lowest-to-highest degree in severity, the first case involved a 37-year-old Kekaha man who was convicted of altering a check from his former employer. For this, he received a five-year felony probation, five days jail and a fine.

The man said he committed the crime after his fiancé broke off their engagement. He didn’t react to this directly but said the experience left him despondent and he altered a $22 check from his employer to read $122 and cashed it.

The defendant expressed a desire to repay his former employer the $100 difference. It was not requested by the victim but he wanted to make good on it, said his deputy public defender.

Watanabe welcomed the enthusiasm and assessed the restitution in the sentencing. She topped it off with a $300 fine that also wasn’t in the plea agreement.

“That is three-times the amount of money you took from (the victim) by altering the check that she gave to you,” Watanabe said.

With both the defense and prosecution in agreement that the defendant was remorseful and gainfully employed, the judge granted a deferred acceptance of the no contest plea. The defendant can ask the court to remove his conviction from his permanent record after completing probation.

The judge said the fine is to discourage another transgression in the future. The deferment is a healthy incentive for a young man to do well on probation and to not reoffend, she added.

A 30-year-old Kilauea man received a five-year felony probation, 30 days jail, and a $500 fine for entering a residence where his girlfriend and an acquaintance were located.

He suspected the two were intimate and so made off with items that he said were purchased as gifts for her, but he took a purse with her credit cards, identification, a cell phone and other important personal items.

The victims hid outside in the bushes because they were afraid to confront him, said the deputy prosecutor. The items were eventually returned but not until the victim went for a week without them, which caused quite an inconvenience.

Watanabe said the defendant would only have to spend four days in jail and the remaining 26 days would be stayed for one year of the probation. If he remains in compliance then he won’t have to serve the remaining time, she said.

There is nothing light-hearted about the sentencing of Joseph Bonachita, a 45-year-old Hanapepe resident who was sentenced to a year of jail and five years probation for threatening his ex-girlfriend and part-time island resident and South Park co-creator Randolph “Trey” Parker in 2009.

Bonachita and Kagawa were together for around a year when she reportedly ended the relationship. A short time later Bonachita said he was drinking and blacked out. Police said he entered Parker’s Kapaa home and stood before the couple’s bedroom door with a knife in his hand.

He fled the home and was arrested a couple of hours later in Koloa. After years of preparing for trial, Bonachita accepted a plea deal in May that dismissed other felony counts.

Kagawa died in August 2009 from a combination of prescription medication and alcohol. Police have ruled out foul play.

• Island Crime Beat is a weekly column that reflects on the current events and issues regarding the police, courts and criminal justice system of Kaua‘i.

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