LIHUE — A Lihue woman pleaded no contest for her role in a deadly car crash in exchange for a lengthy probation on Monday in 5th Circuit Court.
Brittney Lehua Kane, 20, was in court for her trial date when her attorney, Rosa Flores, informed the court the defendant had accepted a no-contest plea agreement from the state. Kane pleaded no contest to manslaughter and first-degree negligent injury charges for a Sept. 11, 2011, crash that claimed the life of 16-year-old Nahele Kapua and caused substantial bodily injury to Koahe Cordeiro, who was also 16 at the time.
Kane, who was then 16, was driving while under the influence of alcohol after attending a hotel party with two passengers. The 1997 Pontiac Grand Am was speeding and racing on Kuhio Highway, when Kane lost control north of the Wailua golf course, left the road, struck a tree and overturned about 12:50 a.m.
Kapua died and Cordeiro suffered fractures, contusions, six broken ribs, damaged vertebra and abrasions to the face and knees.
The manslaughter charge is an A felony and carries a maximum possible 20 years prison term and a $40,000 fine. The first-degree negligent injury charge is a C felony and carries a possible five-year prison term and a $10,000 fine.
County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Melinda Mendes said that in exchange for pleading no contest, the state agreed to drop first-degree negligent homicide and second-degree assault charges. It also agreed to a 10-year term of probation with up to six months jail along with 500 hours of community service.
The defense may ask for no jail in the agreement.
In addition, the state will ask for a five-year revocation of Kane’s driver’s license and for her to undergo an alcohol abuse assessment and mental health treatment. The state will also ask the court to order Kane to arrange for school presentations on the dangers of drinking and drag racing on the highway, to take place twice annually for the first five years and annually thereafter.
The state will also ask the court to order Kane to write an editorial on the same topic that will be either printed as editorial or ran as an advertisement in The Garden Island newspaper.
A restitution hearing is also being requested by the state to order Kane to pay medical, funeral and burial expenses of the victims.
The court agreed to bind itself to agreeing to the 10-year probation and to revocation of the driver’s license, Watanabe said. The court is not bound to agree to the amount of jail time to be determined at sentencing on May 6.
The case originated in Family Court in 2011. The court waived jurisdiction and Kane was indicted in Circuit Court as an adult in February 2014.
The family of Koahe Cordeiro filed a civil suit in 5th Circuit Court in July 2013, against Aston Hotels & Resorts claiming negligence and liability for an underage drinking party on its premises prior to the deadly accident. Kane, as the driver who was also at the party, and her parents, David and Naniloa Wilke, were also named as defendants.
The estate of Nahele Hoku Maria Kapua filed a negligence suit against Aston on Jan. 23, 2013. The suit claims the hotel is responsible for the car accident but does not name Kane as a defendant in the suit.
A breathalyzer of Kane taken at 4:25 a.m. registered at .065. According to Mendes, a toxicologist estimated that Kane’s breath would have registered .153 at the time of the accident.
A person with 0.08 percent or more blood-alcohol level is illegal to drive in the state of Hawaii. As a minor under the age of 21, any alcohol use by Kane would have been illegal.