Five-year term for man who ‘slipped’ while in treatment

WAILUKU – A man who was terminated from participating in the Maui Drug Court program was sentenced last month to a five-year prison term.

Lance Imai, 48, said he had been doing well in the program of drug treatment and supervision before he “slipped.”

He was found guilty of two counts of unauthorized control of a propelled vehicle.

In one case, Imai was riding his moped when he saw another moped with keys in it at Kamaole Beach Park I on New Year’s Day 2010, said Deputy Prosecutor Renee Ishikawa Delizo.

After taking the moped, she said, Imai was arrested while riding it around Kihei. He told police an unknown friend gave him the moped and he didn’t know it was stolen, Ishikawa Delizo said.

Later that month, Imai was operating a stolen moped when Kihei police arrested him on a bench warrant. The moped had been taken from the owner’s residence four days earlier. Its ignition was damaged and vehicle identification plate removed. Imai told police that the moped wasn’t stolen, Ishikawa Delizo said.

In March 1999, Imai was sentenced to a 10-year prison term for first-degree negligent homicide in the November 1997 death of a 57-year-old Washington man who was walking with his wife on the makai shoulder of Honoapiilani Highway in Olowalu when he was hit by a pickup truck driven by Imai.

An investigation showed that Imai was under the influence of crystal methamphetamine when the Lahaina-bound truck crossed the centerline and veered onto the makai dirt shoulder to hit the pedestrian.

Imai’s parole in that case was revoked in 2005 and 2008, and he ended up serving the entire prison term, Ishikawa Delizo said.

She said Imai was on one year’s probation for third-degree theft when the moped thefts occurred.

He was admitted into Drug Court in June 2011.

But starting in March, he missed court hearings, tested positive for crystal methamphetamine use and missed drug testing and a group meeting, Ishikawa Delizo said. She said he also was arrested in a new case when he was found with 5.2 grams of crystal methamphetamine in a sober living residence.

“Pretty much all I know is prison now,” Imai said in court Jan. 29. “I became institutionalized. But through Drug Court, I realized that people actually do care and give us a chance.

“I was pretty much doing all right. I was doing great, drug free, proud of it. But I slipped. Although I had a sober support system, I failed to use it.

“I believe that prison is not the answer, but I’ll take responsibility and I’ll do prison.”

Second Circuit Judge Joseph Cardoza said that by committing crimes, “you reduce your options.”

But by applying what he had learned, “you’re going to have greater options,” Cardoza told Imai.

In another sentencing Jan. 29, a 37-year-old man was given a chance to complete residential substance abuse treatment before returning to jail to finish a nine-month sentence for threatening his then-girlfriend last year.

Christopher Higheagle also was placed on five years’ probation.

He had pleaded no contest to two counts of first-degree terroristic threatening, first-degree unlawful imprisonment and abuse.

He was arrested Aug. 11 after a report that he threatened and punched the woman in the vehicle where they lived at Kanaha Beach Park in Kahului, according to court records.

Higheagle is no longer with the woman and began treatment Jan. 18 after being released from jail, said Deputy Public Defender Adriel Menor. He said Higheagle had already spent about six months in


“I am really more serious and determined to get sober,” Higheagle said.

As part of his sentence, Higheagle was ordered not to consume alcohol or illegal drugs and to complete a domestic violence intervention program.

Cardoza denied Higheagle’s request for a chance to keep the convictions off his record.

* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at