‘Stress was making me crazy’

LIHUE — A Kilauea man was sentenced to felony probation and a year in jail on Thursday in 5th Circuit Court for a 2012 accident when he struck a pedestrian with his van while driving under the influence.

Jonathan Evan Swift, 37, said he was sorry for what he did and was so stressed following the accident that he sought counseling. He wanted to reach out to the victim and apologize but said he was advised against it by the court.

Instead, he worked with his attorney to do what had to be done while training as an electrician and staying employed.

“The stress was making me go crazy,” Swift said. “I just want to make my family and everyone happy.”

His defense attorney, June Ikemoto, said Swift was remorseful and has taken responsibility for his actions. She asked the court for probation and community service in leu of jail.

The accident occurred on March 6, 2012, when Swift was driving his company van down a narrow roadway fronting the Hale Moi Hotel in Princeville. At approximately 3:45 p.m., witnesses reported a van driving erratically sideswiped a female pedestrian with its wide side-mirror as she walked with the flow of traffic, and then left the scene without stopping and rendering aid.

One of the witnesses followed Swift to his home and convinced him to return to the scene of the accident, said County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Melinda Mendes. Swift was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence of an intoxicant and tested with a .10 blood alcohol level an hour and a half after the accident.

The police report indicates that Swift was operating a vehicle in a negligent manner and that he felt and heard a bump, Mendes said.

“He chose to leave the scene,” she added.

He was arrested again on Feb. 8, 2013, when the state pursued additional charges of second-degree assault, accidental death or serious injury, operating a vehicle under the influence of an intoxicant, first-degree negligent injury. He changed his plea to no contest on three of the charges on March 17.

The victim is an Arizona resident and was not present at the sentencing. According to Mendes, the woman was older and took much longer to heal from her serious injuries. She had surgery to repair a broken clavicle with a metal plate, a detached retina, and bruising to her hips, chest and ribs.

Mendes asked the court to sentence Swift to one year in jail, which is the maximum allowable term with the felony probation. She said the severity of the injuries, leaving the scene, driving while intoxicated, and a prior theft conviction in 1995 meant that a more stern sentence was appropriate.

Judge Kathleen Watanabe said there were several letters of support for Swift and she acknowledged his remorse and initiative for seeking counseling to deal with the grief and stress he has suffered with since the accident. She said he needed to consider the victim as much as he does his own health and financial hardships.

“You are very fortunate that she (the victim) was not killed,” Watanabe said.

Watanabe sentenced the defendant to concurrent one-year jail terms with a five-year probation for the two felony counts of first-degree negligent injury and accidents causing injury. She sentenced him to one year probation, a $500 fine, and a 14-day rehabilitation program for operating a vehicle under the influence of an intoxicant.

The court also revoked Swift’s driver’s license for the duration of his probation.

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