A 38-year-old Kailua-Kona man who faced a manslaughter charge in connection with a Jan. 9 Kalaoa accident in which police say he ran over his 3-year-old son has reached a plea deal with prosecutors that reduces the felony offense to a misdemeanor.
Pedro Johanes Peter will plead guilty 8:30 a.m. June 18 to third-degree negligent homicide, driving without a license, failure to have no-fault motor vehicle insurance, four counts of failure to have a child restraint and three counts second-degree endangering the welfare of a minor in connection with the accident during a change of plea hearing before 3rd Circuit Court Chief Judge Ronald Ibarra in Kealakekua.
The plea deal follows a May 30 complaint superseding the case’s Jan. 29 indictment. The complaint dropped only the manslaughter charge for third-degree negligent homicide, according to Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Kim Taniyama.
Third-degree negligent homicide is a misdemeanor offense punishable by a fine up to $2,000 and no more than one year incarceration, according to Hawaii Revised Statutes. The original charge, manslaughter, is a class A felony punishable by up to $50,000 in fines and up to 20 years incarceration.
Taniyama declined further comment on the plea deal when asked whether it was the result of a motion to dismiss the manslaughter charge filed by Peter’s public defender, Peter Bresciani, on April 12. Ibarra was slated to hear the dismissal motion on May 30, the same day prosecutors filed the superseding complaint.
According to Bresciani’s motion, the state did not present sufficient evidence to the grand jury that Peter “consciously disregarded a substantial and unjustified risk that his son would open the door of the car and fall out resulting in his death. Having failed to do so, the charge of manslaughter can not stand.”
The state countered on May 21 that the grand jury “properly found that defendant was reckless. Statutory language governing contributory and comparative negligence is inapplicable to criminal cases where defendant is charged with reckless or negligent conduct based on his actions in failing to safely provide for his own children.”
The state also noted in its opposition that Peter admitted driving the truck without proper restraints for four children riding inside. He also knew that his son could unfasten the seat belt, the motion said.
Peter had faced manslaughter, driving without a license, failure to have no-fault motor vehicle insurance, four counts of failure to have a child restraint and three counts second-degree endangering the welfare of a minor in connection with the accident following a Jan. 29 grand jury indictment.
The indictment contained the same charges police filed against Peter on Jan. 11. It was handed down after a preliminary hearing in 3rd Circuit District Court was delayed because a court interpreter had been part of the police investigation.
The child, identified as Joel Peter, died at 6:43 p.m. Jan. 9 after he was apparently run over by a pickup truck driven by Pedro Peter, near the Matsuyama Food Mart driveway off Mamalahoa Highway, according to the Hawaii Police Department. The father unknowingly struck the youngster who had fallen out of the truck’s cab, police said.
Police determined the boy’s sister apparently thought their father had parked the truck and subsequently opened the rear passenger door, at which time the boy fell out of the vehicle. The father, not knowing his son was outside the truck, continued up the driveway and ran over the child, according to police.
Pedro Peter then drove his son to Kona Community Hospital, which was the first entity to contact emergency officials about the incident, according to police.
Pedro Peter, his 32-year-old wife and three girls, ages 4, 4 and 6, who were in the cab, as well as two male relatives in the truck’s bed were not injured, according to police.
He was subsequently arrested in connection with the accident, as well as on an outstanding warrant for failure to appear.
According to court records, the 3-year-old suffered massive head trauma and a severed spinal cord injury that resulted in instant death.