LIHUE — A Kapaa man who shot up a McDonald’s was resentenced Thursday to 15 years in jail, five less than the 20-year term he was given a decade ago.
Taekyu U, 37, pleaded guilty to three felony counts in connection with 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 the McDonald’s in Waipouli.
His conviction was overturned earlier this year on what was essentially a technicality, after the Hawaii Intermediate Court of Appeals unanimously concluded that the plea deal he signed in 2009 was “statutorily illegal” and sent the case back to the Fifth Circuit Court.
It was not good news for U. His attorney, Keith Shigetomi, filed the appeal in December 2014, and in the intervening four years, U was admitted into a work-furlough program and got a job, spending his days on unsupervised release and returning to jail at night.
After the appellate court’s ruling came down, county prosecutors dismissed the invalid plea agreement and reinstated the original charges. U was one month away from being eligible for parole. Instead, his bail was increased, and he was removed from the work-release program.
In July, U pleaded no contest to two counts — first-degree terroristic threatening and a class B firearms felony — and agreed to a 15-year jail term, leaving him with five years remaining on his sentence.
According to Shigetomi, U is scheduled for another parole hearing next week but, because he was just resentenced, will not be eligible for release until a later date.
When asked to comment on the fact that his client would probably be a free man today if he had never filed the appeal in the first place, Shigetomi said he had no way of knowing that the appellate court would take so long to rule on the case.
He declined to speculate about why it took the appellate court several years to write an 11-page opinion on a relatively simple and straightforward legal matter.
“It took a little longer, but his maximum sentence was cut by 25 percent,” he said.
In a memorandum justifying the state’s request for a 15-year sentence, county Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Jennifer Winn described the shooting that nearly killed five people and left U incarcerated for half of his adult life.
On June 27, 2008, U fired two shots from a moving car driven by his teenage nephew toward the McDonald’s in Waipouli Town Center as five people were leaving the restaurant.
According to the sentencing memo, one man said he felt and heard the bullet pass “very close to his left forehead” before hitting the wall directly behind him. Another said he heard “something zip past” and felt a “compression” hit him.
“The fifteen-year sentence is the best deterrence for a person who did not care if he killed multiple people,” Winn wrote in the memo. “It is definitely needed to protect the public from further crimes of the defendant.”
Caleb Loehrer, staff writer, can be reached at 245-0441 or email@example.com.