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James Monroe received 10 years for role in fatal crash

LIHUE — A man sentenced to 10 years in prison is in a hurry to get another attorney.

In January, Monroe will be in court for a hearing before the Hawaii Paroling Authority, which will determine how long he has to serve in prison before he can be eligible to apply for parole.

Judge Randal Valenciano agreed time was of the essence. 

“You can apply for public defender services or you can hire your own attorney. It’s your option,” he said. “If you don’t get an attorney, you might be representing yourself at the parole hearing. That’s not recommended.”

Monroe appeared before Valenciano Tuesday for a status of counsel hearing because his attorney, Michael Soong, can’t represent him after January. He is seeking a lesser sentence, filed a motion to reduce his sentence, and that hearing will not happen until May.

He was sentenced to 10 years in prison in September in connection to the 2014 death of Kilauea resident Sam Mitzel.

On March 4, 2014, about 7:30 p.m., Mitzel and his father Keith Mitzel were struck by a Ford pickup truck driven by Monroe on Kuhio Highway just north of Wailapa Road.

On the night of the wreck, Monroe, 53, had a blood alcohol content of .32, four times the legal limit, according to reports.

Monroe crossed the center line and sideswiped a southbound Jeep SUV before crashing head-on into a Dodge SUV driven by Sam Mitzel. The collision forced the Dodge to overturn, according to police reports.

Mitzel, 29, died at the scene.

Keith Mitzel survived the wreck, but suffered 10 broken ribs, a lacerated spleen and internal bleeding.

He was taken to Wilcox hospital and was then flown to Queen’s Medical Center on Oahu.

The driver of the Jeep SUV, Cathy Farley, and her passenger were also injured, according to reports.

Monroe was arrested March 5 and charged with negligent injury and negligent homicide.

He was later indicted on nine counts, including manslaughter, negligent homicide in the first degree, assault in the second degree, negligent injury in the first degree, two counts of assault in the third degree, reckless driving, inattention to driving and operating a vehicle under the influence of an intoxicant.

He pleaded no contest to those charges on May 11.

During Tuesday’s proceedings, Monroe said he intends to hire an attorney.

“Michael Soong said I should call Craig De Costa, but being incarcerated, it’s hard for me to communicate. My daughter is coming to visit me, and I am going to ask her to get a hold of Craig,” he said. “If I can’t get a hold of anyone, I’ll have to get a public defender.”

Valenciano suggested Monroe apply for public defender services.

“At least you’ll have an attorney,” he said.

Monroe is scheduled to be in court on Jan. 17.

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