Fired employee, dropped ice, and a 2×4 to the temple

LIHUE — A Puhi man who struck a co-worker with a board was sentenced to 90 days in jail with probation and fined $500 on Wednesday in 5th Circuit Court.

Judge Kathleen Watanabe said the defendant was fortunate that the state agreed to an amended charge. He was also fortunate that his employer of seven years provided a letter of support saying he still has his job.

“There are other options and other choices than hitting someone with a board,” Watanabe said.

Benjamin Mau Teofilo, 30, was arrested for second-degree assault on May 3, 2013, and a 5th Circuit grand jury indicted him on June 20, 2013. He pleaded no contest to an amended charge of first-degree terroristic threatening on April 15.

Watanabe granted Teofilo’s motion for a deferred acceptance of the no-contest plea. If Teofilo successfully completes his five-year probation, he may request to have the conviction removed from his record.

Court-appointed defense attorney Caren Dennemeyer said Teofilo is a large but gentle man who was doing what he thought was necessary at the time to prevent a fight with the victim.

The two were delivering ice in a truck on April 15, 2013, she said. Teofilo did not know that his older but larger co-worker had been told he was fired that morning but allowed to finish the day.

Teofilo asked the co-worker to hold the ice while he went to move the forklift into position, she said. The co-worker let the ice fall to the floor and then stood in front of Teofilo and verbally berated him.

Believing the co-worker intended to start a fight, Teofilo turned away to avoid saying or doing anything to further agitate the situation, she said. When the co-worker grabbed his clothing, Teofilo picked up a wooden 2×4 plank and swung around, striking the co-worker in the temple region and his arm multiple times.

“I just want to say that I am sorry and I wish I could take back what I did,” Teofilo said in court.

Dennemeyer said Teofilo did not strike the man hard enough to cause serious injury and his intention was to get the man to back off. The co-worker has a record of violence and is currently facing felony charges in an unrelated matter.

Dennemeyer asked for probation and time already served for Teofilo.

County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Lisa Arin said the victim’s criminal record was not a factor in this matter and that Teofilo is being sentenced. 

The victim’s actions in no way justifies striking him over the head with a board, Arin said. The victim’s injuries were documented by a medical team at the Wilcox Memorial Hospital Emergency Room.

Arin asked for the 90-day jail term.

Watanabe said Teofilo should have been thinking about his job of seven years, his new house and a partner who is expecting their first child. She issued a no-contact order with the victim.

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