Judge: Man’s successful appeal to benefit others

WAILUKU – A Wailuku man whose sentence was vacated when the state Supreme Court ruled he had been denied his constitutional right to be represented by a lawyer of his choice was sentenced Thursday to a 10-year prison term.

It was the same sentence Stephen Cramer Jr., 27, received at his original sentencing Jan. 6, 2011.

And, after the lawyer who successfully argued Cramer’s appeal withdrew from the case in May, he was again represented by Deputy Public Defender Danielle Sears.

“I commend you for going through with the appeal,” 2nd Circuit Judge Peter Cahill told Cramer. “You asserted your constitutional right, and you won.”

“All lawyers, they want to get that one big win,” Cahill said in court after he imposed the sentence.

“But sometimes that one big win doesn’t affect the person” named in the case, Cahill said.

“The court violated your constitutional right by not allowing you to have the attorney of your choice,” Cahill told Cramer. “But in the long run, I don’t know that it made any difference at all. You did a great thing, but it’s other people that are going to benefit from that case.”

Cramer was found guilty of second-degree promotion of a dangerous drug, possessing drug paraphernalia and third-degree promotion of a detrimental drug in connection with his arrest Sept. 19, 2007.

That day, police vice officers executed search warrants targeting Cramer and found two-thirds of an ounce of crystal methamphetamine in a vehicle his grandfather had bought for him, said Deputy Prosecutor Tracy Jones.

Although Cramer denied he had been dealing drugs, Jones said his roommate reported that he had seen Cramer selling drugs in the parking lot of their apartment complex.

Cramer was given a chance to have the charges dismissed when he was admitted into the Maui Drug Court program of treatment and supervision. But he agreed to be terminated from participation in the program in September 2010 and was convicted of the drug charges.

His sentencing had been set for Jan. 6, 2011, when lawyer Hayden Aluli appeared and asked for a three-week delay so he could represent Cramer. Then-2nd Circuit Judge Shackley Raffetto denied the request. Cramer’s sentencing ended up being delayed for five days.

After Cramer appealed his sentence, the state Intermediate Court of Appeals ruled that there was no violation of Cramer’s constitutional right to be represented by an attorney of his choice.

Cramer then asked the Supreme Court to review the appeals court order.

Convening on Maui for the first time since the mid-1800s, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case Dec. 6 in the Baldwin High School auditorium.

In an opinion for publication issued April 29, the Supreme Court said that the Circuit Court had “abused its discretion” by denying Cramer’s request for the delay and to have another attorney represent him.

The Supreme Court vacated Cramer’s sentence and sent the case back for resentencing.

In court Thursday, Sears said Cramer qualified to be sentenced under a law calling for probation and drug treatment for first-time drug offenders. She said that would allow him to have the charges expunged from his record.

Jones argued that Cramer wasn’t a good candidate for probation. She said Cramer had already been given that chance through Drug Court.

“But he engaged in a pattern of deception,” she said. “It was a pattern of opposition to authority, and it was a pattern of lying.”

She said Cramer had “12 missteps” before leaving the Drug Court program.

Restraining orders obtained against Cramer reflect a history of domestic violence-related “power and control” issues involving women, Jones said.

Sears said that although Cramer didn’t complete the Drug Court program, he didn’t relapse and has been sober since December 2008.

Already incarcerated for more than three years, Cramer had been furloughed before he was sanctioned in June for violating release conditions, attorneys said. Sears said he had been on his way to being paroled before the violation that landed him in lockdown.

“In the past, I did mistakes in my life,” Cramer said in court. “I not saying I shouldn’t have been punished for it. I got a taste of prison, and I got a taste of life after prison. I can honestly say life after prison is way better.”

In imposing the prison sentence, Cahill said Cramer had already received a chance for supervision and treatment through Drug Court. Cahill also said Cramer seemed to have a problem with women that he needed to deal with.

But the judge said Cramer had done “extraordinarily well” while incarcerated, completing drug treatment and other programs.

Cahill said he hoped the parole board would take Cramer’s past into consideration.

* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at