Man sent to prison 5 years for van break-in

LIHUE — An off-island felony record was the main factor in a Lawai man being sentenced to five years in prison on Thursday in 5th Circuit Court.

Trevor Duane Choate, 44, had pleaded no contest to first-degree unauthorized entry on July 24, 2014. It was a C felony charge but the plea agreement had the state recommending probation with mental health and substance abuse assessments.

Chief Judge Randal Valenciano said this case is an example of why the court doesn’t take positions on plea agreements at pretrial. The pre-sentencing investigation into Choate’s background produced an extensive criminal record in California, Arizona and Oregon, including an offense in 2006 that landed Choate a 30-month prison sentence.

“Now you have hit Hawaii and are in the criminal justice system,” he said. “Your record follows you and it is not a good record.”

Court-appointed defense attorney Mark Zenger said the defendant has had a difficult life and was having a particularly bad day when he committed this offense. It was a “weird” unauthorized entry into an old van and there appeared to be no intent to commit a crime against person or property, he said.

A psychotic episode was ruled out after proceedings were suspended on Sept. 16, 2013, for the defendant’s motion for an examination to determine fitness for trial and capacity at the time of the offense. The court found the defendant fit to proceed on May 29.

Zenger asked for four months jail with credit for time served.

Choate apologized to the court and to anyone involved. He said Hawaii was a chance to heal and turn his life around, that he was doing well on supervised release and was looking for work.

County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney George White said the felony information complaint filed on June 3, 2013, resulted in Choate’s arrest the following day. He said this was a bizarre case where there didn’t appear to be an intent to do harm and that the mental examination showed he was impaired at the time of the offense but is no longer unfit.

White said the defendant’s performance on supervised release was good, with the exception of one positive test for the presence of THC in his system.

Valenciano said the offense was strange but it showed that the defendant was not able to control his actions.

He said the court would set aside the plea agreement and ordered the defendant turned over to the custody of the Department of Public Safety for a period of five years, with credit for time served.

“Did you just sentence me to five years, your honor?” Choate asked the court.

“Yes, I did,” Valenciano replied.

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