LIHUE — A Kapa‘a man got five years in jail for stealing a tent.
“You did everything in order to get the open term, and you’re certainly deserving of that,” Fifth Circuit Judge Randal Valenciano told Zion Harada on Thursday morning before handing down the maximum allowable sentence. “You’ve built yourself a record, and not in a good way.”
To understand why Harada ended up with a five-year jail term for shoplifting — prosecutors said he stole about $1,100 worth of Kmart merchandise, “to wit, automotive retail items and a family size tent” — you have to go back in time almost two decades.
In January 2000, Harada was convicted of his first crime, according to court records and a list of prior offenses recently compiled by the prosecuting attorney who wrote up his most recent plea bargain. The charge was only a misdemeanor — abuse of a family or household member — and Harada was sentenced to 50 days in jail, where he spent his 25th birthday.
Within months of his release, Harada was arrested again, this time for stealing a car and driving it recklessly. Police said drugs were involved, although those charges were later dropped.
Harada bailed out and got into trouble before he could even show up to court to plead not guilty. On New Year’s Day 2001, Harada was picked up for theft and burglary. He was released and arrested again, six days later, for theft.
Prosecutors resolved all the new cases against Harada later that year by agreeing to drop most of the charges in exchange for no contest pleas to two felonies — second-degree theft and reckless driving — and a misdemeanor for possession of drug paraphernalia. Harada got five years this time and spent his 26th birthday in jail.
The Fifth Circuit Court’s online document filing system provides a less-than-complete record of cases that date back more than a couple years, so it is unclear exactly when Harada was released, but he must have gotten out of jail by October 2002 because that’s when he was arrested for driving while intoxicated.
A judge found Harada guilty of driving under the influence of drugs the day after Christmas, ordering him to pay fines and perform community service. His license was revoked, possibly the reason he was arrested a few months later for driving without a valid driver’s license, a charge that was eventually dismissed.
For quite a while after that, Harada stayed out of the system. Nearly four years went by without so much as a speeding ticket. But in February 2007 Harada got arrested for burglarizing a home. He bailed shortly afterward but had to spend another couple weeks in jail, a month later, for not showing up to his court date.
In October 2007, a jury found Harada guilty of second-degree theft, his third felony conviction. He was given credit for jail time already served and released on probation. It took him a few years to violate the terms of his parole, and except for a ticket in 2009, when he was found driving an uninsured car on a revoked license, Harada kept himself out of trouble.
Then, in February 2010, he got pulled over again. His license was still invalid, but police were apparently more concerned with his reckless driving and drug use. Harada pleaded guilty to several counts — two of them were felonies — in January 2011 and got another five years in jail. His 36th birthday was coming up.
It is unclear from court records whether Harada was forced to spend the entire five-year term in jail, but by early 2016, he started getting traffic tickets again. Twice in February of that year, Harada was cited for driving a car with delinquent vehicle taxes and an out-of-date safety check. His license hadn’t been valid in well over a decade. The second time he was also speeding.
In July 2017, Harada got stopped again. This time police found drugs in the car. Harada spent about five months in jail waiting for trial but ended up avoiding the most serious charges in a plea deal that got him released before he turned 42. Or, at least, it would have, if it weren’t for that tent.
Caleb Loehrer, staff writer, can be reached at 245-0441 or firstname.lastname@example.org.