LIHUE — A Kalaheo man involved in a road rage incident was sentenced to jail and probation on Thursday in 5th Circuit Court.
Michael J. Edwards, 50, was sentenced to 30 days in jail, and four years of felony probation.
The charges stem from a driving altercation on April 14, 2013, when Edwards was arrested and released on $3,000 bail. He was subsequently indicted on June 27, 2013, on charges of reckless driving, two counts of first-degree terroristic threatening, second-degree assault, and operating a vehicle under the influence of an intoxicant.
The court declared Edwards fit to proceed to trial on Dec. 17, 2013, in response to examinations conducted after a defense motion on mental fitness. He changed his plea to no contest to reckless driving, a petty misdemeanor, and first-degree terroristic threatening, a class C felony on March 17, 2014.
Defense attorney Michael Soong said the incident unfolded when Edwards was driving from Koloa to Kalaheo on Koloa Road (County Road 530) in the area known as “the Flats.” He passed a vehicle, the driver flashed his lights at him, and Edwards made a bad choice, Soong said.
“It was basically a road rage incident,” Soong said to the court.
County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Teresa Tumbaga said Edwards was driving erratically and crossed the center line to pass another vehicle. At the time he had a female passenger and her two children in the car.
Edwards chose to stop and get out of the vehicle to approach the other driver while holding a piece of pipe, she said. Witnesses reported that Edwards argued with the driver and swung the pipe, when the other driver struck and held Edwards until police arrived.
Other witnesses tried to intervene and reported being threatened by Edwards, she added.
Edwards has a previous intoxicated driving conviction from 1991 in California, along with a disorderly conduct in the 1980s.
“It is clear that the problems here stem from alcohol,” Tumbaga said.
Soong said Edwards has done everything that he could to show that he is taking responsibility for himself, Soong said. He has not drank since the incident and is active in his sobriety, which shows through improved relationships and his work.
“He is a good candidate for probation,” Soong said.
Edwards apologized to the court and said the drinking problem became more chronic with the death of his mother just over three years ago. His work and relationships suffered in the downward spiral.
“It all came to an impasse that night,” Edwards said. “It was fortunate that the only one hurt was myself.”
In his statement to the court, Edwards said he grabbed the pipe from the vehicle because he believed the occupants of the other vehicle were several large males. Once he saw that it was a family, he did not feel a need for the weapon.
Edwards also said he had no recollection of making threats to any other witnesses during the event. The other driver struck him in the head and the next thing he remembered was sitting on the curb with the police.
“You were the one who initiated the incident,” said Chief Judge Randal Valenciano said to Edwards.
The judge said that by stopping his car in such a way that the vehicle behind him could not pass, he initiated the confrontation.
“You were the aggressor,” Valenciano added.
The court also ordered Edwards to write three letters of apology to the victims in the case and submit them through the probation department. He must complete a substance abuse evaluation and comply with all requirements of the findings.
Edwards said that since the incident, his relationships and work life are better with his sobriety and choices made “one day at a time.”
“I am one year and two months sober,” Edwards said.