LIHUE — A Kapaa man who has spent the last 10 years in jail for a drive-by shooting will get five years knocked off of his lengthy prison sentence.
Taekyu U, 37, pleaded guilty to three felony charges related to an incident in June 2008, when he fired several shots from the window of a moving car, narrowly missing three ministers and a National Guardsman who stood outside a McDonald’s in Waipouli.
Earlier this year, Hawaii’s Intermediate Court of Appeals handed down an opinion overturning U’s conviction on the grounds that prosecutors offered U a plea bargain that was “statutorily illegal.” The case was sent back to the Fifth Circuit Court on Kauai, where prosecutors dismissed the plea bargain, filed the same charges all over again and prepared to go to trial.
But on Wednesday, U’s attorney, Keith Shigetomi, said he was able to negotiate a new plea bargain that his client will sign next week, effectively taking five years off U’s 20-year sentence.
According to Shigetomi, U will plead guilty on Tuesday to two counts — first-degree terroristic threatening and a class B firearms felony. The two charges carry a combined maximum penalty of 15 years in jail. U has been incarcerated since 2009, leaving him with five years remaining on his sentence.
Kauai County Prosecutor Justin Kollar confirmed the details of the plea bargain Wednesday, in an email that said U will agree to serve consecutive ten- and five-year prison terms, a sentence he described as “a fair and appropriate resolution,” based on “the age and posture of the case.”
The appellate court’s ruling came at an inconvenient time for U. When prosecutors reinstated his case in April, U was just one month shy of being eligible for parole. Instead of being released, U’s bail was increased. He was removed from the Kauai County Correctional Center’s work release program and lost his job in Lihue, where he had previously been allowed to spend his days.
Shigetomi said U should be once again eligible for parole after sentencing later this year and will finish probation five years earlier.
Shigetomi argued in the appeal that when prosecutors amended count one — attempted murder reduced to reckless endangering —they invalidated count two — use of a firearm in commission of a felony — which is defined by Hawaii statute that says, “a person shall not be prosecuted under this subsection when the separate felony is…reckless endangering.”
It took more than five years, but the Intermediate Court of Appeals sided with U and Shigetomi. On Jan. 23, the appellate court handed down an opinion stating that “the conviction for Use of Firearm in Commission of Felony with Attempted Murder as the underlying separate felony cannot stand.”
Caleb Loehrer, staff writer, can be reached at 245-0441 or email@example.com.