‘Jumbo’ surfer claims temporary insanity

LIHUE — The surfer whose arm was severed after an accident along Kuhio Highway is claiming he was temporarily mentally impaired when he allegedly threatened EMT staff on his way to the hospital more than a year ago.

A Fifth Circuit Court judge on Tuesday granted the motion for a mental health examination of James Pellegrine to determine his penal responsibility for reason of physical or mental disease, disorder, or defect. A hearing is scheduled for April 19 before Judge Kathleen Watanabe.

Pellegrine is charged with two felony counts of terroristic threatening in the first degree, a class C felony, for allegedly shouting at two ambulance workers as they transported him from the Hanalei police substation to Wilcox Memorial Hospital following an accident involving his severed arm.

Pellegrine is said to have shouted at hospital staff during his time in the ER, but the doctor did not want to press charges, according to Kauai Police Officer Brad Candido.

The mental health examination will be comprised of a three-doctor panel, which will determine whether Pellegrine had enough cognitive capacity and volitional control during the alleged incident.

The reports will be introduced as evidence for the trial, which was scheduled for March 28 but suspended pending the hearing on April 19.

After a minor traffic collision on Dec. 19, 2014, which deployed the airbags and caused the hood of Pellegrine’s car to pop up and block the windshield, Pellegrine drove away, despite KPD’s warnings. The second accident — the one that severed Pellegrine’s arm — occurred along Kuhio Highway as Pellegrine was driving to the Hanalei substation.

Defense Attorney Michael Soong said the motion makes sense given the circumstances.

“The allegations are that Pellegrine threatened EMT workers on the way to the hospital while he was asking for medication for his severed arm,” Soong said. “If you’re in that much pain and asking for medication, there’s no way you’re in control of your conduct.”

Pellegrine is a recognized surfer and is known for surfing waves all over the world. He’s considered one of the top five jumbo surfers in the world.

Pellegrine, who recently returned from a trip to California on $25,000 bond, is also charged with operating a vehicle under the influence of an intoxicant, reckless driving, inattention to driving and driving without a license.

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