WAILUKU - Saying he wanted to see a defendant get help for unresolved issues of anger, depression and post-combat stress, a judge ordered an 18-month jail term for a man who held a machete to his former girlfriend's throat while keeping her from leaving a Kahului apartment earlier this year.
Francis Ramirez, 27, was placed on five years' probation as part of the sentence imposed Thursday.
He had pleaded no contest to kidnapping, first-degree terroristic threatening and abuse of the woman.
"I could stand up here with hate and anger for what he's done to me and my family," the woman said in court Thursday. "I choose to forgive him and have compassion for him so I can move on.
"But in no way does my forgiveness toward him take away what he's done to me and the memories I have to live with every day of my life and the fear I have to live with. All those hours with the machete and him torturing me . . . thinking I was going to die.
"If he's truly sorry, he will do whatever it takes to get the help he needs so he doesn't do this again to another woman or anybody that loves him."
First Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Robert Rivera said the case could have gone to trial, but the prosecution reached the plea agreement recommending probation as a way to help the victim move forward.
Before she sought treatment at the Maui Memorial Medical Center emergency room in the early-morning hours of March 15, the woman reported that Ramirez prevented her from leaving the apartment at Harbor Lights Condominium, held a machete to her throat and beat her until she was unconscious.
"This defendant, who's supposed to be protecting us from terrorism, is inflicting that same terror upon his loved one within the walls of their home," Rivera said. "The same skills it takes for servicemen to survive and come back alive from the battlefield, she incorporated that to survive.
"There's no question she thought her children were going to be motherless."
Ramirez was arrested that morning after he got off a flight from Maui to Honolulu, where his estranged wife lives.
Deputy Public Defender Adriel Menor said Ramirez disputed much of the report about what took place that evening.
"For every bad thing written about Francis Ramirez, there's probably an equal number of good things," Menor said. "He's a war veteran who served our country. He has good qualities and good traits."
Ramirez was deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan before being honorably discharged after nine years in the Marine Corps. Post-traumatic stress disorder probably contributed to what happened that night, Menor said.
He said Ramirez, who has already spent about five months in jail, wanted to reconcile with his wife and move to Virginia, where he has support.
"I'm deeply sorry for what I did," Ramirez said in court, looking toward the victim. "I just want to move on and have closure too. What I did was what I did. I'm owning up to it."
Second Circuit Judge Joseph Cardoza noted that Ramirez had led a law-abiding life until a contact with the criminal justice system last year involving possession of a controlled substance, steroids. Ramirez reported that steroid use "helped him get an edge for combat" during deployments, the judge noted.
He said Ramirez had been seeking help for depression and anger issues and had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. He had been prescribed medication, but reports indicated he overused the drugs, in one case going from taking two pills a day to 15 pills a day, Cardoza said. "That's just a formula for disaster," Cardoza said.
He said what happened to the victim was "almost a situation where a person has been taken prisoner and subjected to various techniques to break them down."
Reports indicated that Ramirez made the victim "think she was on the edge and you were going to kill her," the judge told Ramirez.
"That kind of treatment is similar to what may occur in battle, in war, making them think they're going to be severely tortured or executed," Cardoza said. "She obviously experienced that and will continue to experience that for a very long time."
Cardoza read a portion of Ramirez's letter, written a couple of months ago, that said: "The government (military) made me what I am now. They gave us medals and commendations when we killed a person from the opposing side. But here it sounds like I get hanged for punching my girlfriend, no questions asked."
Cardoza said he wanted to see Ramirez address his issues, instead of blaming others.
The judge set an Oct. 20 date for Ramirez to return to court. A week before then, Cardoza said he wanted to see a progress report from Ramirez's probation officer including plans for the Department of Veterans Affairs' involvement with him.
"With the proper attention and commitment on your part, you can truly put this behind you," Cardoza told Ramirez.
Ramirez was ordered to pay $400 in restitution and participate in mental health treatment and a domestic violence intervention program. He also was ordered not to consume alcohol or illegal drugs and to have no contact with his former girlfriend.
* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at email@example.com.