Five years for man who burned last bridge

WAILUKU – Saying a man with a lengthy criminal history had already been given chances on probation and parole, a judge sentenced the defendant to a five-year prison term for drug convictions.

As a multiple repeat offender, Nicholas Burns was ordered to serve the entire five-year term as a mandatory-minimum sentence.

“The court feels you have burned your last bridge,” 2nd Circuit Judge Rhonda Loo told Burns, who was sentenced Jan. 17. “The only clear path I can take is to send you to prison.”

Burns, 37, already has been serving a five-year prison term in a stolen vehicle case.

As part of a plea agreement, he withdrew an appeal in that case.

Burns also pleaded no contest to two reduced counts of third-degree promotion of a dangerous drug, as well as another charge of third-degree promotion of a dangerous drug, two counts of possessing drug paraphernalia and three counts of fourth-degree theft.

The charges stem from two cases.

On July 1, 2012, he drew the attention of police officers in Lahaina when he was parked 4 feet from the curb, said Deputy Prosecutor Tracy Jones. Burns gave police false information before an officer recognized Burns, who admitted having drugs in the vehicle. He told police he had been about to light a drug pipe, Jones said.

After obtaining a search warrant for the vehicle, police recovered 4.42 grams of methamphetamine packaged for sale in six packets, as well as a scale, empty packets, ice pipe and fake drugs, Jones said.

“That was not just 4 grams of methamphetamine. That was money for him,” Jones said. “To the community, it was poison. It fuels drug addiction.”

She said Burns told police he smoked methamphetamine three times a day and was selling the drug to support his habit. He also admitted selling “bunk,” or fake drugs.

On Dec. 4, 2012, Burns was again arrested after police were called to investigate a report of recyclables and a bicycle, sneakers and hat being stolen from Hale Kai Oceanfront condominiums in Honokowai. An officer directing traffic on Honoapiilani Highway saw Burns riding the bicycle north in the bike lane while wearing the stolen sneakers and hat.

When police tried to detain Burns, he discarded the bicycle and ran before being apprehended in the lobby of the Honua Kai complex, Jones said. Police reported finding drugs in his pocket.

Jones had argued for a 10-year prison term for Burns, who has a criminal history of 55 convictions, including 30 for felony offenses.

But defense attorney Jon Apo said the five-year prison term was adequate for what he called “dumpster diving” in the later case. Apo said Burns was “in his own way trying to survive on the streets with a drug habit, having no support.”

Deputy Public Defender William “Pili” McGrath, who represented Burns in the other case, said that after serving five years in prison, Burns would be 42. “People who seem to be hopelessly addicted grow out of it in their 40s,” McGrath said.

Burns said he wanted to seek treatment and move to the Big Island, where he has family.

“My lifestyle at the time of these crimes was a direct result of my bondage to addiction,” he said in court. “At the time, I was a slave to drugs.”

Loo said Burns had been in the criminal justice system since 1997 for violent, drug and property crimes. He was on parole in similar cases when he was arrested in the July 2012 case and had committed more offenses despite opportunities including long-term rehabilitation, Loo said.

* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at