WAILUKU - Five months after he was arrested in Georgia while competing in Olympic weightlifting trials, a Kihei man was sentenced to an eight-year prison term for two home-invasion robberies in which the residents were beaten.
James Moser, 19, was sentenced Thursday as a young adult offender after he had pleaded no contest as charged to two counts each of first-degree robbery and first-degree burglary, as well as first-degree assault and first-degree theft. The robbery charge usually carries a penalty of 20 years in prison, while the other charges carry penalties of up to 10 years in prison.
In imposing the sentence, 2nd Circuit Judge Joseph Cardoza said both injured residents were "completely innocent victims who literally had their homes invaded and were brutally attacked and had property stolen from them."
"This could easily have ended up a lot worse than it did," Cardoza said.
"And that's saying something because it was a very bad situation. What you left in your wake was a path of destruction and injury that no human being should have to experience."
One robbery occurred at about 5 p.m. April 19 when two strangers walked in while an engineer was home alone and doing work at his apartment at the Kihei Alii Kai complex at 2376 S. Kihei Road.
The victim reported that a man matching Moser's description held a knife to his throat before he was beaten into unconsciousness and the apartment was ransacked, with the thieves making off with $1,000 cash and other property. A rubber mallet was used in the assault on the man.
The victim has no memory of how he briefly regained consciousness and managed to call his wife, who called 911. He suffered a concussion, broken nose and damage to a small artery from a cut on his left thumb.
He required 18 stitches to his throat, 10 stitches for lacerations to his upper and lower lip, 18 staples for multiple lacerations to his back left skull and a root canal for nerve injury from a front tooth that was damaged in the attack.
Four days later, at about 1:30 p.m. April 23, another man suffered facial fractures when he was attacked by two intruders who entered through an unlocked door of the unit at Kihei Regency Apartments at 2441 S. Kihei Road.
The attackers used their fists, empty beer bottles and a wooden nunchaku martial arts weapon belonging to the victim, who was awaiting entry into the Marine Corps, said Deputy Prosecutor Melinda Mendes.
Luckily, she said the man recovered from his injuries and recently graduated from boot camp.
Property valued at more than $20,000 was stolen, including rings the victim had inherited from his mother and still wanted back, Mendes said.
She said both victims were upset about Moser's false claims that he had robbed drug dealers.
While another man was charged along with Moser in the second robbery, Mendes said the first victim wanted to know who Moser's accomplice was in that robbery.
Moser didn't speak in court Thursday. But his attorney William Sloper said Moser "is very sorry for what he has done."
When he is released from jail, Moser would have his parents and siblings to return to, as well as his athletic aspirations, Sloper said.
"It was unfortunate that this event occurred and it stopped him from being able to compete in the Olympic trials and having his chance to compete in the Olympics," Sloper said. "Mr. Moser is probably going to still have that chance."
In sentencing Moser, Cardoza agreed to follow a plea agreement between the prosecution and defense.
He asked Moser to consider how he would feel if he or one of his family members were treated the way he treated the victims.
"Would you ever want to go through this experience, this type of victimization?" Cardoza asked Moser.
"Think about what your reaction would be. Think about what these human beings had to go through at your hands."
Unless he is committed to changing his life, Cardoza said, Moser shouldn't be free in the community.
"It's good that you're competing in weightlifting," the judge told Moser. "But you'd better compete in life first."
Moser was ordered to pay $5,301 in extradition costs associated with returning him to Maui from Georgia. He is also subject to restitution costs in the two robberies.
Co-defendant Ikaika Kirifi, 23, of Makawao is facing a 10-year prison term after pleading no contest to a reduced charge of second-degree robbery and first-degree burglary for the April 23 incident. He is scheduled to be sentenced next month.
Lila Fujimoto can be reached at email@example.com.