LIHUE — James Pflueger was sentenced to seven months in jail and five years probation on Wednesday for his role in the 2006 Ka Loko dam failure that killed seven people.
The 88-year-old retired auto dealer was sentenced in 5th Circuit Court before Chief Judge Randal Valenciano.
Pflueger, of Honolulu, was charged with tampering with a spillway around the dam on his 33-acre property in Kilauea. The dam breached in March 2006, sending a wall of water downhill that killed Alan Gareth Dingwall, Daniel Jay Arroyo, Rowan Grey Makana Fehring-Dingwall, Aurora Solveig Fehring, Christina Michelle McNees and her unborn baby, Timothy Wendell Noonan Jr., and Carl Wayne Rotstein.
Bruce Fehring, a father and father-in-law to Rowan, Aurora and her unborn baby, read a lengthy letter in court asking that justice be served for the poor as well as the rich, said outside of court that there were no winners today.
“There were only losers,” said Ferring. “We’ll live with this and the wisdom of the court. and I do wish Mr. Pflueger good health and good luck.”
Fehring’s request for a restitution order to cover the costs of his home and property lost in the dam breach was recalled in court. The matter was resolved with a civil settlement.
Pflueger pleaded no contest to first-degree reckless endangerment, a felony, in a plea agreement that had his company, Pacific 808 Properties LLC, formerly known as Pflueger Properties, also pleading no contest to the seven manslaughter charges.
The plea agreement would have assessed Pfluger with $350,000 fine — or $50,000 for each death. With the jail time, Valenciano instead fined Pfluger $1,000 per count.
Valenciano said he would pierce the veil of the plea agreement that allowed Pflueger’s company to shield him from ultimate responsibility in the matter. He said Pflueger’s attorney’s were correct in arguing that he did not assume full culpability in the incident, but that that his actions before and after were of non-compliance and that of a “business bully” who acted first and addressed the consequences later.
“It is appropriate in this case,” Valenciano said.
Pflueger’s attorney William McCorriston, said after the hearing that the defense would be making a motion for reconsideration of sentence. It was in part for Pflueger’s failing health, he said.
An appeal was not considered as it would likely take longer than the jail sentence itself to be resolved, he added.