LIHUE — With his family saying the defendant’s mental illness was not an issue but that crystal methamphetamine made him violent and out of control, a Lihue man was sentenced to five years prison Thursday in 5th Circuit Court.
Alfred Paul Lopez Jr., 49, lost his patience while listening to his sister-in-law speak on behalf of the man’s family. She said there was a “lot of love” for him, but that his drug use and acts of violence traumatized his nieces and siblings.
“I believe the open term is appropriate in this case,” said Chief Judge Randal Valenciano.
Lopez has been in custody for four years awaiting various motions regarding his fitness for trial, and for his own unwillingness to meet with attorneys, doctors, and refusing to attend court hearings. He became upset and said he never hurt or intended to hurt his family members. He said they lied about his drug use being a problem.
County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney John Murphy read information from the police report dated Feb. 21, 2010. Lopez allegedly punched a female victim repeatedly in the face, and then choked and struck her with a pipe. He also threatened to kill a second victim.
After repeated interruptions Chief Judge Randal Valenciano excused Lopez from the courtroom and recalled the case later.
Court-appointed defense attorney Mark Zenger said he spoke with Lopez in the interim and wanted to honor his request that the defendant objected to the prosecution’s description of charges that were dismissed in the case, after he changed his plea to no contest on one count of first-degree terroristic threatening on Oct. 15.
The charge was reduced to a C-felony in the deal. The maximum jail term is five years, as opposed to 10 years in the original B-felony charge.
“Prison is the appropriate sentence to protect the community, and the defendant’s own family, from Mr. Lopez’s violent behavior,” said County Prosecuting Attorney Justin Kollar. “While many drug users can be safely rehabilitated while part of the community, for this defendant, that is not possible.”
The case came to 5th Circuit by way of preliminary hearing in Kauai District Court on March 3, 2010. Proceedings were suspended for two separate examinations to determine mental fitness and Lopez was eventually found fit to proceed to trial.
Lopez had been acquitted for lacking mental capacity for trial in a 2007 case on charges of robbery, property damage, terroristic threatening and assault. He was also committed in April 2012 following an assault and terroristic threat case.
Another reason for the lengthy delay in the 2010 case was to hear motions from court-appointed defense attorney Mark Zenger. He tried to withdraw from the case in part for the defendant’s unwillingness to discuss the case.
The court denied the motions to withdraw.
The court denied a motion to defer acceptance of the no-contest plea. The defendant will also get credit for time served.
Lopez has had 15 court cases since 1991 including harassment, abuse of family or household member, assault and property damage. He served one year in jail for a 2004 theft case, and most recently had a two-year probation for a misdemeanor abuse charge in 2007.