Lahaina man who sold bags of pot gets 30 days in jail

WAILUKU – A 44-year-old Lahaina man who sold $20 bags of marijuana at Banyan Tree Park last year was sentenced to 30 days in jail and four years’ probation.

In following a plea agreement April 16, 2nd Circuit Judge Rhonda Loo ordered Jon Eric Phoenix, also known as Jonny Phoenix, to pay a $1,000 fine.

Loo noted that Phoenix already had four convictions for possessing or using marijuana.

“This to me, its your fifth time. Fifth time is not a charm,” Loo said.

Phoenix, who was out of custody, said that he committed the crime not to buy fancy clothes, drive a nice car or for “bling bling,” or jewelry, but to pay for rent.

He also addressed his past history and noted that he has stumbled at times.

“I know I made some mistakes in the past. I learned from those mistakes. I paid for those mistakes.”

Deputy Public Defender William “Pili” McGrath said that when Phoenix got caught he told police immediately what he was doing.

He added that Phoenix is “clear-headed” and “intelligent.”

In asking for no additional jail time for Phoenix and also a chance to clear his record after he successfully completes probation, McGrath said that although his client is 44 years old, “I can tell the court, he knows the difference” between right and wrong.

McGrath added that this case is about marijuana and not harsher drugs that would warrant jail or prison. He said that Phoenix would get jail or prison if he were ever arrested again.

“For God’s sake, tourists come here, hoping to buy pot,” McGrath said.

But Deputy Prosecutor Jeffery Temas opposed the chance for Phoenix to clear his record, noting that a finding cannot be made that Phoenix would not commit another crime.

“The state is not going to be the grantor of that whatsoever.”

Temas added that Phoenix profited from “others’ addictions.”

“What he was doing, selling drugs, is a problem in the community,” he said.

Phoenix pleaded no contest to promoting a controlled substance in, on or near schools, school vehicles or public parks, and prohibited acts relating to drug paraphernalia, court records show.

The incident occurred on Sept. 17 at Banyan Tree Park in Lahaina near Kamehameha III Elementary School.

In an unrelated case, 2nd Circuit Judge Peter Cahill sentenced 30-year-old Jean Paul R. Fontany on April 15 to 63 days in jail for punching a nurse in the chest at Maui Memorial Medical Center in November.

Fontany, who received credit for the 63 days he had already served, was scheduled to be released from custody after the sentencing.

Cahill waived court fees for Fontany, who is homeless and told Cahill that he would seek help from a homeless shelter when he is released. Cahill pointed out that Fontany is bipolar but seems to be doing better than when he last saw him last year for another sentencing.

Defense attorney Cary Virtue said Fontany had not been taking his medicine when the incident occurred.

Deputy Prosecutor Mark Simonds said that the male nurse was not hurt, but suffered pain from the punch.

Cahill said he was concerned that Fontany’s actions could affect the community because Fontany has a history of assaulting people of authority, including a police officer.

Cahill told Fontany that he, too, could get hurt.

“Some day, somebody is going to haul off (and) knock your head off your shoulders,” Cahill said, noting that Fontany would probably not get much sympathy.

Fontany pleaded no contest to a reduced charge of assault in the third degree, a misdemeanor, reduced from second-degree assault, a felony, according to court records.

* Melissa Tanji can be reached at