LIHUE — One of the people responsible for the death of a homeless woman killed two years ago at a marked crosswalk on Rice Street was sentenced to community service and probation Wednesday.
Tierra Aiolupotea, 35, was driving the second vehicle that struck 60-year-old Paulanna Larish in the early morning hours of Oct. 7, 2014.
Fifth Circuit Court Judge Kathleen Watanabe sentenced her to 240 hours of community service and four years of probation, with the first half of community service to be completed by Aug. 16, 2017.
Should Aiolupotea stay out of trouble for four years, the felony conviction will be wiped from her record.
Her attorney, Eric Seitz, told the court his client had regrets about the tragic events that occurred two years ago.
“The circumstances and what happened were very thoroughly investigated,” Seitz said. “The autopsy report was a very big factor to determine what exposure to liability she had. This is not something that she would wish upon anybody to go through.”
Deputy prosecutor Anne Clarkin said the state was recommending 240 hours of community service and driver’s training education.
Seitz said he was fine with the community service, although he believed 240 hours was excessive for someone in Aiolupotea’s condition. Aiolupotea is pregnant and due in December, he said.
He also said the driver’s training education was not necessary.
But the court had concerns about 48 traffic infractions totaling more than $5,000 on Aiolupotea’s record, and asked the state whether it had considered those before making the plea agreement with the defendant.
Clarkin said the infractions were minor, such as a seat belt violation or driving without a license.
Because of the traffic infractions, Watanabe said she was more inclined to give Aiolupotea 240 hours of community service. She said she did not know about the traffic record before she agreed to the terms of the plea agreement.
Prosecuting Attorney Justin Kollar said Aiolupotea used to get a lot of tickets because she was a sovereignty activist and refused to use Hawai’i plates.
“But that was a long time ago and those tickets don’t have any relevance to this offense, so no, they don’t make any difference,” Kollar said.
Watanabe also asked that Aiolupotea pay $2,011.91 in restitution to Larish’s family for funeral costs. The cost will be shared between her co-defendant, Derreck Agan.
In 2015, Aiolupotea was charged with two counts on the two-page indictment including second-degree negligent homicide and accidents involving death or serious bodily injury, a class C felony and a class B felony, respectively.
In May, Aiolupotea and the state worked out an agreement, which dropped the B felony, Seitz said.
“We worked hard in this case to come to a resolution that was fair and reasonable for everyone involved, including the family of Paulanna Larish, who expressed their forgiveness and wish for leniency,” Kollar said. “Ms. Aiolupotea took responsibility for her actions, which resulted from negligence rather than any intentional or reckless conduct. We also considered the defendant’s lack of any criminal history and the low likelihood of anything like this happening again in the future, given the unusual circumstances of the case.”
On Oct. 7, 2014, Aiolupotea was one of two people who stuck Larish as she crossed the marked crosswalk on Rice Street in the early morning hours.
Agan, driving a Toyota Tacoma, allegedly hit Larish at 6:15 as she made her way across the street by the Lihue Post Office, according to reports.
Agan got out of his vehicle and tried to assist Larish, but while he was doing so, another driver in a Mercury Mountaineer also drove over the crosswalk and struck Larish, according to reports.
Aiolupotea, the driver of the Mercury Mountaineer, left the scene and was found three days later, police said.
Larish, who was homeless, died at the scene.
Seitz told The Garden Island that according to the autopsy report, it was Aiolupotea’s vehicle that caused the fatal injuries.
He said she did not know that she had hit a person when she drove away from the scene.
“This has been very upsetting for her,” Seitz said. “She was responsible for somebody’s death. She had no idea that had happened until the police came and picked her up. There was some suggestion in some of the police reports that maybe she wasn’t truthful, but I don’t have any question that she didn’t know that she had hit a person and she did not see that person.”
Seitz said his client, who now lives on Oahu, ultimately accepted responsibility for Larish’s death.
“This has had significant impact on her and her family members and they are very sad that they have been involved in this,” he said.
The co-defendant in the case, Agan, is scheduled to appear in court later this month. He is charged with first-degree negligent homicide for allegedly causing the death of Larish while under the influence of the drug Temazapam, a benzodiazepine and sedative.