Man who threatened neighbors not guilty of felony
WAILUKU – A Waiehu man was acquitted of a felony threatening charge and found guilty of three lesser charges for threatening to kill his neighbors during what his attorney described as a “rampage” last year.
A 2nd Circuit Court jury returned the verdicts last week, also finding Dana Ikaika Valdez, 28, guilty of disorderly conduct, third-degree criminal property damage and four counts of violating an injunction against harassment.
Instead of first-degree terroristic threatening, he was found guilty of three counts of second-degree terroristic threatening, a misdemeanor.
Deputy Public Defender John Parker said afterward that he believed the jury had reached a just decision.
During the trial, the defense didn’t contest the facts detailed in testimony by 14 people.
Jeremy and Rosalie Fernandez and their son, Brandon, who live across the street from Valdez on Onaha Street, had gone to court in June to obtain a three-year injunction ordering Valdez not to harass or contact them.
But on Sept. 26, Rosalie Fernandez reported receiving a Facebook message from Valdez, in violation of the injunction. After she called police, an officer went to talk to Valdez, then reported back to Fernandez that Valdez had been told to stop.
On Oct. 23 at about 8 p.m., Valdez’s next-door neighbor Eassie Miller Jr. was taking his granddaughter back to her parents when he saw Valdez outside his residence.
“He was agitated and shouting and yelling,” Miller testified. “He had a cigarette in one hand and a gas can in the other, and he was slamming them together. Sparks were flying.”
Miller said he heard Valdez making threats to kill that he believed were directed at the Fernandez family.
Miller left before 18-year-old Brandon Fernandez returned home at about 8:40 p.m. and was texting when he was accosted in his driveway by Valdez. He grabbed Fernandez, who managed to break free before Valdez began chasing the youth around vehicles in the driveway.
Valdez threatened to kill Fernandez and his parents, who came out of the house because of the commotion. Valdez chased Jeremy Fernandez halfway up the stairs to his front door. Valdez also punched vehicle windows, causing more than $1,500 in damage, according to trial testimony.
Starting at 8:43 p.m., the Fernandezes made six calls to 911.
“This is really the nightmare on Onaha Street,” Deputy Prosecutor Jerrie Sheppard said in closing arguments to jurors.
She said Valdez didn’t stop even after punching the vehicle windows. “He’s completely out of control that night,” she said. “And the threats he’s making are very real.”
Sheppard said Valdez was guilty of the felony threatening charges because there were two incidents of threatening against Fernandez family members, including the threats with the gas can that night.
But Parker argued that what happened that night amounted to one incident of threatening.
“It was part of a continuing process – the running around, chasing, the yelling, ‘I’m going to kill you,’ ” Parker said. “It was offensive and probably inexcusable conduct.”
He said the felony charge was “taking something that doesn’t fit and making it fit by breaking it into two parts.”
“Does the splitting of 10 or 15 minutes or so constitute two separate instances of threatening? Or is it one rampage?” Parker said. “I think it’s one.”
Valdez was acquitted of two counts of abuse of his own family members, who didn’t show up to testify at the trial.
Valdez is scheduled to be sentenced March 6. His bail, which had been set at $100,000, was reduced to $32,000 during a bail hearing after the trial.
Judge Richard Bissen presided over the trial.
* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.