Man sentenced to prison after abuse of woman in front of kids

Judge Cahill: ‘Adults, they have the opportunity to walk away. Children don’t have that opportunity’

WAILUKU — A man who was days away from being sentenced for abusing his former girlfriend when he burglarized her house and assaulted her again has been sentenced to a 10-year prison term.

Kurtis Pedersen, 25, had fled to Alaska before he was arrested and brought back to Maui to face the charges in August 2016, said Deputy Prosecutor Emlyn Higa.

“It’s just almost unthinkable,” said Higa, who recommended that Pedersen be sentenced to prison Thursday.

Pedersen had reached a plea deal for probation for abusing the woman on Jan. 8, 2015, before he committed the new crimes four days before he was to be sentenced, Higa said.

On the night of May 24, 2015, after he illegally entered the woman’s home, Pedersen punched her repeatedly in her neck and head until she fell to the ground, Higa said. Pedersen got on top of her while she was on the floor and continued punching her.

“At first, she tried to fight back, but after a while, she just laid there,” Higa said.

The woman reported that her two young children and a 2-year-old child she was babysitting came out of the bedroom, he said.

Her 1-year-old son “was crying and came running to her while she was on the ground,” Higa said.

He said her 6-year-old daughter screamed, “Get off my mom, just get off already. I hate you.”

While the woman said the 1-year-old was too young to understand, “it’s not too young to be terrified, and it’s not too young to be affected by what happened,” Higa said.

Pedersen faced felony abuse charges because of the presence of children under age 14, he said. The Legislature made such crimes felony offenses “because of social science research indicating children who are present when there’s domestic violence in the home are astonishingly more likely to be victims or perpetrators of domestic violence when they grow up,” Higa said.

After beating the woman, Pedersen told her, “This is what you do to me,” Higa said.

Pedersen’s history includes crimes in Colorado, where he had been on probation when he was arrested Jan. 8, 2015, he said.

In his three Maui cases, Pedersen had pleaded no contest to first-degree burglary, second-degree theft, second-degree assault, five counts of felony abuse, abuse, violating an order for protection, interfering with reporting of an emergency and first-degree bail jumping.

Pedersen, who has already spent about 19 months in jail, asked to be placed on probation. He said he was trying to find programs to help him with his anger and substance abuse issues.

“I’m just trying to change for the better,” he said in court. “I know I wasn’t perfect. I’d like to make up for what I’ve done.”

At one point breaking down in tears, Pedersen said he hadn’t seen his son in about two years.

“I really regret everything I’ve done,” he said. “It’s shameful. I’m embarrassed.”

As a Native American, Pedersen is genetically predisposed to alcohol problems, said his attorney, Walter Vierra. Pedersen knows he needs drug and alcohol treatment and has support from family and friends in Alaska, he said.

Pedersen is no longer in a relationship with the woman, who spoke in court Thursday, asking that he be spared a prison term.

“As far as what happened, I can’t say I fully forgive him,” she said. “But to move forward, I don’t believe he should be out of the children’s life for so long. I don’t see him as a threat to me.

“He was a really good father to our son. Unfortunately, we weren’t compatible.”

In sentencing Pedersen, 2nd Circuit Judge Peter Cahill said the defendant’s crimes spanned three states — Colorado, Hawaii and Alaska.

“At some point, there’s got to be the serious consequences to the action,” Cahill said.

He cited the repeated offenses and the violence in sentencing Pedersen to prison. Along with the 10-year prison term for the first-degree burglary charge, Pedersen was sentenced to five-year prison terms to be served at the same time for other charges.

“How can we put you in the position of being with the child when the child is exposed to violence?” Cahill said. “The Legislature stepped up and said we have to view these cases differently because they are different.

“Adults, they have the opportunity to walk away. Children don’t have that opportunity.”

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

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