Fake nephew of ex-governor to be guest of state

WAILUKU – Saying a defendant told lies including falsely claiming he was related to the late Hawaii Gov. John A. Burns, a judge Friday ordered a five-year prison term for a Lahaina man convicted of driving a stolen truck.

As a repeat offender who was sentenced in 2008 for felony convictions in three cases, Nicholas Burns, 36, was ordered to serve the entire prison sentence without the possibility of parole.

“The defendant has dozens of felony convictions that all took place within a five-year period,” said Deputy Prosecutor Jeffery Temas.

In a trial this year, Burns was convicted of unauthorized control of a stolen vehicle for driving a stolen blue 2004 Dodge Dakota quad cab pickup that security officers saw parked Sept. 30 at Marriott’s Maui Ocean Club in Kaanapali.

Burns, who was also found guilty of driving without a license, testified that he had borrowed the truck from a friend. But a security officer said Burns had admitted to stealing the truck from Kahului.

“The crime that Mr. Burns was convicted of is not the crime of the century,” said defense attorney James Brumbaugh. “Matter of fact, most of Mr. Burns’ convictions are not serious felonies. And almost certainly, all of them involve drugs.”

Burns said he hoped to attend one of two long-term residential drug treatment programs he had been accepted into.

“No longer can I be doing these juvenile, childish things,” he said in court Friday. “I’m asking for a chance. I believe in building better people, not better prisons.”

Second Circuit Judge Richard Bissen said he was “fascinated” by the family history Burns described to a probation officer who prepared a report for his sentencing. In the report, Burns said John A. Burns was his grand uncle.

Asked by the judge how his childhood was influenced by the late Hawaii governor, Burns said: “He was an influence on my life because he loved and served the people of Hawaii. That’s in me too.

“It was very little time that I spent with him, but I always looked up to him. I saw him at a couple of family gatherings growing up as a child and I also read his book.”

Burns said he was born in 1976, but Bissen noted that Governor Burns died in April 1975.

“He died before you were even born,” Bissen told Burns. “You’re lying about that like you’re lying about everything else – like you did at trial.”

The judge said he called the late Governor Burns’ son, retired state Intermediate Court of Appeals Chief Judge James Burns, to say his nephew would be in court to be sentenced.

“He says, ‘What nephew Nicholas?’ ” Bissen said.

The judge said Nicholas Burns told the probation officer that he would get a governor’s pardon.

“Whether you are or are not related to former Chief Judge Jim Burns or his father, former Governor Jack Burns, would make no difference one way or the other,” Bissen told Nicholas Burns. “But the fact that you would lie does make a difference. You’re not ready to come clean.”

The judge said Burns’ criminal history includes 103 arrests and 53 convictions, including 29 for felony offenses.

Bissen called Burns an “exceptional and eloquent writer.”

“You’ve missed your calling,” Bissen told Burns. “Unfortunately, you don’t write the truth about everything, but you do write well.”

* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at lfujimoto@mauinews.com.