LIHUE — A Kapaa man who prosecutors said was picked up by police this year with more than 13 grams of methamphetamine was sentenced to 15 months in prison by a Kauai judge.
Jonathan Evan Koichi Wakumoto, 27, was being assessed for the Drug Court program when he racked up additional charges this year.
Fifth Circuit Court Chief Judge Randal Valenciano sentenced Wakumoto to 15 months and four years of HOPE probation after prosecutors made arguments at his sentencing hearing.
Deputy prosecuting attorney Joanne Sheng said police stopped Wakumoto in July 2015 for driving without a license. Police then found methamphetamine and a marijuana pipe with residue, Sheng said.
Prosecutors charged him with driving without a license, drug paraphernalia, third-degree promoting a detrimental and third-degree promoting a dangerous drug.
Nearly a year later, after pleading no contest tothird-degree promoting a dangerous drug in December, Wakumoto was again stopped by police.
This time Kauai officers pulled him over on April 10 for driving with fraudulent license plates, according to court documents.
As officers conducted the stop, they saw a marijuana crusher on a zipper pull on Wakumoto’s backpack, records show.
Police arrested Wakumoto, his car was taken into evidence and officers obtained a warrant to search it. Kauai Police Department K-9 unit Tora confirmed drugs were in the car, records show.
Officers found 13.12 grams of crystal methamphetamine and 1.58 grams of Tetrahydrocannabinol or THC.
He was charged with second-degree promoting a dangerous drug, drug paraphernalia, third-degree promoting a detrimental drug, driving without a license and driving with a suspended license.
In May, he pleaded no contest to a second-degree promoting a dangerous drug after coming to an agreement with the state.
According to state law, a person commits second-degree promoting a dangerous drug if they knowingly possess one-eighth ounce or more, containing methamphetamine, heroin, morphine, or cocaine or any of their respective salts, isomers, and salts of isomers, or distribute any dangerous drug in any amount, except for methamphetamine.
Prosecuting Attorney Justin Kollar said with the recent changes in Hawaii law regarding methamphetamine trafficking, which eliminated second-degree meth trafficking, his office charged Wakumoto with second-degree promoting a dangerous drug.
He said in the last legislative session, the Legislature, over his office’s objections, eliminated the offense and had to charge it as promoting a dangerous drug in the second degree, which is still a class B felony but is eligible for probation.
“They’re both class B (felonies),” Kollar said. “The difference is the mandatory prison time. The offense of methamphetamine trafficking in the second degree was formerly a class B felony punishable by a mandatory 10-year prison term.”
A class B felony is by up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $25,000.
However, the law change regarding meth trafficking occurred in the month of May, according to Kollar.
If the law did change, it would be sensible, because it would give judges more discretion on how they would handle these types of offenses, said Hawaii drug defense attorney Todd Eddins.
Sheng said Wakumoto admitted to selling “ice” after being released from Kauai Community Correctional Center in December to support his drug habit.
Wakumoto has a lengthy record, which begins in 2008, consisting mainly of traffic conviction, Sheng said.
His defense attorneys told the court Wakumoto had veered off into a life controlled by drugs, but that he wanted to turn his life around.
James Tagupa, defense attorney, said Wakumoto had already applied for three treatment centers because he realized that “this type of lifestyle is not a good lifestyle.”
“In this case, he is getting a little bit wiser,” Tagupa said. “He understands that this isn’t the type of life he wants to live. We ask the court to give him probation and allow him to enter a drug rehab program. He is serious about this, your honor. Please allow him to resolve this.”
Prior to sentencing, Wakumoto had no felony convictions.
When Wakumoto addressed the court, he apologized and said he wanted a second chance.
Valenciano warned Wakumoto that he was building himself “quite a record.”
“Most of your charges now have been mostly non-felony charges, he said. “Now you’re moving into the felony level. I’m not going to give you the open term today. If you keep incurring criminal offenses, you’re looking at the open terms. Be careful, because the next time you come to court, your attorney is going to have a hard time arguing for you.
Valenciano also told him he needed to take action when it came to getting the help he needed for his drug habit.
“I know you talk about doing it, but you need to actually make it happen.”
He was also sentenced to nine months in jail for third-degree promoting a dangerous drug in a second case. The sentences will run concurrently.
Wakumoto will also have to pay $205 Crime Victim’s compensation fee, $150 probation services fee, $100 internet crimes against children fee and $1000 drug demand reduction fee.