WAILUKU - A man whose flicked cigarette started a fire that burned the roof of a Pukalani restaurant was ordered not to use tobacco for the next year as part of his sentence Friday.
"That means no cigarettes," 2nd Circuit Judge Joel August told 19-year-old Makaio Bachman-Majamay. "That certainly is related to the incident. Perhaps it will add about 10 or 15 years to his life if he stops smoking permanently."
The Makawao resident had pleaded no contest to third-degree criminal property damage, reduced from the original charge of third-degree arson, for the fire July 26, 2008, at Pukalani Terrace Center.
The fire was reported at 8:45 p.m. after Bachman-Majamay shared a cigarette with another man while sitting outside the Wei Wei Bar-B-Q Restaurant at Pukalani Terrace Center, officials reported. Bachman-Majamay reportedly flicked the cigarette onto the shake roof of the restaurant before walking into the Subway restaurant next door, where he was working.
When the roof started to burn several minutes later, a witness ran into Wei Wei Bar-B-Q to get a pail of water to throw on the fire. The witness threw three pails of water onto the roof to douse the fire, which was extinguished when firefighters arrived.
In court Friday, August granted Bachman-Majamay's request for a chance to keep the conviction off his record if he complies with court requirements for one year. He also was ordered to pay the $1,025 cost of repairing the burned roof and to perform 60 hours of community service.
"I don't think he planned to burn up the roof," said Deputy Public Defender William "Pili" McGrath. "I think this was more reckless than intentional."
He said Bachman-Majamay had been working until his job ended last month.
McGrath appeared in court as a private attorney because he was on a furlough day, as were all but one attorney in the Maui office of the public defender. McGrath said he showed up because he wanted to help his clients. Cases were delayed for other defendants represented by deputy public defenders who weren't at work because of the furlough schedule.
August said he didn't think Bachman-Majamay would have additional contact with the criminal justice system, unless he becomes an adult corrections officer, as he said he wants to.
"The fortunate thing about it all is that somebody observed what was occurring on the roof," August said.
Otherwise, he said the fire could have done more damage.
"There's certainly the potential, not only that the fire would have spread to the entire shopping area, but people could have been injured or killed," August said.
He said he hoped Bachman-Majamay had learned from what happened.
In California, the judge noted, a cigarette flicked into dry brush started a wildfire that burned thousands of acres. "It happens every year, all because of someone flicking a cigarette," August said.
In another sentencing Friday, a 34-year-old Wailuku woman was ordered to repay $3,748 to the state in a welfare fraud case.
Tiffany Kahihikolo had pleaded no contest to second-degree theft and welfare fraud for receiving public assistance benefits for her two children from April 2008 to January while they lived with their father, according to court records.
Second Circuit Judge Richard Bissen denied her request for a chance to keep the convictions off her record, citing her five prior convictions including two for abuse. He gave Kahihikolo credit for five days she previously spent in jail, placed her on five years' probation and ordered her to perform 100 hours of community service.
Kahihikolo said she was participating in an outpatient treatment program and going to school.
"I'm trying my best," she said.
"Everyone is pulling for you," Bissen said. "But it really is up to you."
* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.