Man who tried to set self, girlfriend ablaze sentenced to 10 years


A 27-year-old South Kona man was sentenced Monday to a maximum 10 years in prison after pleading guilty to a February incident in which he set himself afire and attempted to do the same to his ex-girlfriend in Honaunau.

Robert Lee York must serve up to 10 years for kidnapping and second-degree arson and up to five years for felony abuse and first-degree terroristic threatening, with the terms running concurrently, ordered 3rd Circuit Court Judge Elizabeth Strance. He must also pay $2,287 in fees and restitution.

Before handing down the sentence, York, shackled at the wrists, waist and ankles and dressed in the standard Hawaii Community Correctional Center orange garb, apologized to his ex-girlfriend and her family for his “downright stupid and irresponsible actions.” He also noted he continues to think daily about the Feb. 14 incident and what the family and community thinks about him.

In handing down the sentence, Strance deviated from Deputy Public Defender Betsy Steulke’s request that York be sentenced to 18 months jail and probation because he lacks a criminal history and mental health resources are more readily available in the community.

The judge also did not grant the state’s request to have York serve the prison term for the arson offense consecutive to the other terms.

York pleaded guilty July 2 to felony abuse of a family or household member, first-degree terroristic threatening, kidnapping as a Class B felony and second-degree arson. He had faced charges of second-degree attempted murder, first-degree arson, first-degree terroristic threatening, kidnapping, intentional choking, abuse of a family or household member and second-degree criminal trespassing.

The original charges stem from a reported incident early Feb. 14 at a Tobacco Road home in Honaunau. York set fire to the front porch of his ex-girlfriend’s home and then doused her and himself with a flammable liquid, according to police. He then attempted to set them both afire.

York suffered burns that required hospitalization while the ex-girlfriend did not require medical treatment, according to police.