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No contest plea in traffic fatality

July 31, 2014 - 12:05am

A 28-year-old Mountain View man who struck and killed an elderly bicyclist with a pickup truck late last year pleaded no contest Wednesday to first-degree negligent homicide.

Third Circuit Judge Greg Nakamura set sentencing for Siaiku Lucky Aholelei for 8:30 a.m. Oct. 13. In return for Aholelei’s plea, prosecutors dropped a manslaughter charge filed for the Sept. 27 collision.

Two eyewitnesses said they saw Aholelei’s Mountain View-bound pickup truck cross the median on Volcano Highway near Kamehameha Schools-Hawaii in Keaau, cross two lanes of oncoming traffic and strike 66-year-old Cenon Visaya, who was riding his bike on the shoulder in the Hilo direction. One of the witnesses testified in an Oct. 1 preliminary hearing it appeared Aholelei was “playing tag” with a female driver of another black pickup truck, whom the witness said “proceeded to go on her merry way.”

Visaya was dead at the scene, police said.

Defense attorney Michael Green asked Nakamura to grant Aholelei permission to travel to Las Vegas for a seven-day honeymoon.

“He understands the seriousness of what he’s facing,” Green said, noting Aholelei has been present for every court hearing.

Deputy Prosecutor Kevin Hashizaki objected “based on the nature of his current offense.”

“My inclination would be to deny the request,” the judge said, and instructed Green to file a written motion.

According to court records, Aholelei has 17 prior criminal convictions, including felony theft, felony assault and auto theft.

A manslaughter conviction carries a possible 20-year prison sentence, while first-degree negligent homicide carries a possible 10-year prison term, although Aholelei may be exposed to extended sentences because of his felony record, the judge indicated from the bench. The 10-year term sought by prosecutors is a so-called “open 10,” and parole could be granted at some point.

Green said Nakamura has some discretion in sentencing in this case.

“My sense is, because of (Aholelei’s) background, the likelihood is he’ll probably get the open 10. … It’s important, because if he went to trial, he could get 40 years on the manslaughter charge, or he could get 20 years on the negligent homicide.”

Visaya’s death is the second traffic tragedy endured in a little more than a year for his family. Visaya’s wife, 61-year-old Josefina Visaya was killed, as was 54-year-old Patrocinia Cadang of Keaau, when the van they were riding in was sideswiped and knocked down a 15-foot embankment by a pickup truck attempting to overtake them on Mamalahoa Highway near Kalopa. The Sept. 10, 2012, crash also injured the six other people in the van, three of them critically.

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