LIHUE — A Kilauea man convicted of pushing an island visitor off a Kalalau cliff was sentenced to five years in prison on Tuesday in 5th Circuit Court.
Justin Wynn Klein, 38, was also ordered to pay $19,925. 48 in restitution to the state Crime Victim Compensation Commission.
Klein didn’t offer a statement in the court. But responding to a question from Judge Kathleen Watanabe about maintaining he did not commit the offense, Klein said that he was sorry for the victim’s injuries and regretted he didn’t have a chance to talk to her since the incident.
Klein was convicted of throwing 31-year-old Azusa “Shita” Ino, of Japan, off a 15-foot cliff in the Kalalau Valley on Dec. 16, 2012. She was rescued in critical condition and eventually recovered and returned home with her family.
Watanabe said nobody may ever figure out what happened on the mountainside that day. With drugs involved, she said even Klein cannot be sure what happened.
“Only the powers that be will ever know,” she said.
The sentencing offered a sense of closure to the victim and the defendant, but also for the community that has watched the case in the media for two years, the judge said. There are limitations and factors involved in the plea agreement that the court bound itself to, which was reached in part because of a lack of a complaining witness, who’d returned to Japan.
The restitution was the remainder of the victim’s hospitalization and health care costs that were not covered by insurance and grants, according to State Deputy Public Defender Stephanie Sato.
In her sentencing argument, Sato said that what happened on the mountain was “unfortunate and avoidable” but that it was an accident that was not intentionally or directly caused by Klein. She said the reckless endangerment plea was appropriate and the original second-degree attempted murder charge was not.
County First Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Kevin Takata said he did not agree with Sato’s characterization of the incident or of the state’s initial charge. However, he said the state would reserve its own characterization of the events for the state Parole Authority to decide how much of the five-year sentence Klein would serve.
There isn’t a mandatory minimum sentence for Klein. He will receive credit for time served since he turned himself in as a fugitive at Lydgate Beach Park on April 6, 2013.
Justin Kollar, prosecuting attorney, said the extent of the relationship between the victim and Klein at the time of the incident was unclear, but they did not appear to have been strangers.
“We are satisfied that this defendant will spend a substantial amount of time in prison,” Kollar wrote in a statement.
Klein pleaded not guilty to the attempted murder charge. The court ruled that Klein was mentally fit to proceed at trial on June 26, 2013, and he changed his plea to guilty on an amended charge of first-degree reckless endangerment on March 19.