Man is sentenced for attacking monk seal last year

LIHUE — A Lihue man accused of beating up a monk seal will serve four years in prison.

To the Prosecutor’s Office’s knowledge, Shylo Akuna is the first person to be in the state to be sentenced in a felony incident relating to a monk seal, said Justin Kollar, prosecuting attorney.

Before being given the sentence Wednesday, Akuna made a brief statement.

“I’d like to apologize to the state, the court and the community for my actions,” he said.

The 20-year-old appeared before Judge Kathleen Watanabe on one charge of attacking a monk seal after he was recorded harassing RK30 at Salt Pond Beach Park.

On April 26, 2016, Akuna attacked RK30, who was pregnant at the time and later gave birth to RH38, according to witnesses and a video that went viral on Facebook shortly after the incident.

A witness told officers she noticed Akuna “throwing sand and screaming at the seal,” according to court records.

The monk seal started “barking” and “trying to bite the guy,” while Akuna tried to punch the seal, swinging his fists, according to court records.

Akuna then chased RK30 into the water, according to police.

Akuna was arrested two days later.

On Wednesday, his attorney Mark Zenger argued that while Akuna “harassed” RK30, he “did not hurt it.”

“He was splashing and making hand gestures, which scared the seal,” he said.

In February, the state offered a plea agreement in which Akuna would face a maximum of one year in jail. But since the Salt Pond incident, Akuna picked up a burglary charge and the state took away that offer.

“Animal abuse is often a precursor to other types of violence and cannot be tolerated in our community,” Kollar said. “We thank our public safety partners at the Department of Land and Natural Resources and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for their efforts in bringing this case to a successful resolution, especially Division of Conservation and Resource Enforcement Officers Warren Tavares and Kalani Addington as well as NOAA Special Agent Brandon Jim On.”

On Wednesday, Kollar asked that Akuna be sentenced to five years in jail.

“He has a lengthy juvenile criminal record and has proven he cannot abide by the norms that govern our society,” he said. “He’s 20 years old and has a drinking problem. He’s not even able to legally drink.”

Akuna was also sentenced on June 23 to serve one year in jail for the unrelated theft and slaughter of a goat from a pasture on Kauai’s Westside in January 2016.

Akuna still faces charges regarding the alleged burglary of a room at the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa this March.

As to the events that happened last April, Kollar said it’s obvious.

“It’s clear as day what happened. He was highly intoxicated and approached a monk seal,” Kollar said.

Watanabe gave Akuna the four-year sentence to comply with the youthful offender statutes.

“Cruelty to animals raises a red flag. It’s just senseless acts,” she said.

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