LIHUE — Having served 44 days of his sentence at Kauai Community Correctional Center, James Pflueger was placed on home detention Friday.
The 89-year-old was sentenced to seven months in jail as a condition of his five-year felony probation on Oct. 15 in 5th Circuit Court. He was serving his sentence when an existing health condition worsened and a new health concern was discovered, according to the state Department of Public Safety. A medical determination was made that the new condition could not be operated on or treated by a DPS facility.
“All factors pointed to this being the appropriate thing to do,” said DPS spokeswoman Toni Schwartz.
The KCCC medical staff recommended a medical release through a home detention process, Schwartz said. It was passed through a health care branch of the corrections division before it was presented to DPS Director Ted Sakai.
“The director doesn’t take this lightly and it was not an easy decision but he felt it was the appropriate thing to do,” Schwartz said.
This is a case-by-case matter where a defendant who is considered dangerous, or indigent, would not receive this type of medical release, she said.
Pflueger checked into the Oahu detention center for an electronic device after his release and will not be allowed to leave his house other than for doctor visits.
Deputy Attorney General Vince Shigeto Kanemoto, prosecutor in the case, could not be reached for comment.
Pflueger’s attorney, David Minkin, said he was not aware of the decision but said if Pflueger needs to be under the care of doctors, then this is the correct course of action.
“I worked for 15 years as a prosecutor and I know that the prosecutors are always evaluating that situation,” Minkin said.
Pflueger was convicted for his role in the 2006 Ka Loko Dam break that swept seven people to their deaths. He pleaded no contest to first-degree reckless endangerment and his company, Pacific 808 Properties, took responsibility for seven counts of manslaughter in a second case with a $350,000 fine and receive felony probation.
The retired Honolulu auto dealer said at his sentencing that no amount of money from civil lawsuits could compensate the loss of the victims. He said not a day goes by he is not reminded of the tragedy.
Mark Zenger, another private attorney who worked with Pflueger on the case, said he was not surprised given Pflueger was already taken to the emergency room once for a serious heart condition. Pflueger’s precarious health history includes heart problems, cancer and arthritis, he said.
“That is what should have happened in the first place,” Zenger said.