Joyriding visitor given chance to keep record clean

WAILUKU — A New Zealand woman who was visiting Maui when she stole a BMW sedan and was seen driving recklessly on the pali has been given a chance to keep convictions off her record.

Irihapeti Tautuaa, 35, was released from state custody Jan. 25 after spending 99 days in jail. But she continued to be held on an immigration matter, as her tourist visa had expired, said Deputy Public Defender William “Pili” McGrath.

“This is basically ‘Girls Gone Wild’ while you were on vacation here,” 2nd Circuit Judge Rhonda Loo said in sentencing Tautuaa. “You’re very lucky you didn’t go head-on into anyone.

“You may have been under the influence of alcohol and prescription drugs. They don’t mix, as you found out the hard way.”

Tautuaa had pleaded no contest to unauthorized control of a propelled vehicle and a reduced charge of contempt of court for not showing up for a court hearing.

The 1995 BMW four-door sedan was stolen July 6 from a condominium complex on Kanoe Street in Kihei, said Deputy Prosecutor Jeffery Temas.

He said that a Lahaina police sergeant stopped the BMW “22 miles away about 12 hours later” after a report that it was seen being driven recklessly near Milepost 17 on Honoapiilani Highway.

While vacationing on Maui, Tautuaa “happened to be living with her aunt, who lives 100 feet away from where the car was stolen,” Temas said.

He said that the car had been left unlocked with its keys inside.

“She doesn’t seem like the kind of person who would do this, but she did do it,” McGrath said.

He said Tautuaa was “embarrassed by what happened, but it is what it is.”

“It’s very disappointing for her,” McGrath said. “She had some hopes of remaining in the United States, but those hopes are now dashed.”

Tautuaa could keep the felony conviction off her record if she complies with court requirements for the next four years. She was ordered to pay $300 in restitution to cover the cost of towing the stolen car.

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

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