WAILUKU - A Baldwin High School student was released from jail last week after being incarcerated for nearly three months for his part in a robbery attempt this year.
Kaulana Rosaga, 18, drove four juvenile friends who hid in bushes before emerging to display what appeared to be a gun and demand money from two young men walking home on Mahalani Street in Wailuku the night of Jan. 2. Sirens heard in the area (the robbery was on the same street as the Wailuku Police Station) apparently stopped the juveniles from carrying out their robbery attempt.
Shortly afterward, police reported apprehending Rosaga and the juveniles following an armed robbery of a tourist at about 1:30 a.m. Jan. 3 on the beach fronting the Maui Seaside Hotel.
While the weapon turned out to be a pellet gun, it resembled a real gun, said Deputy Prosecutor Kim Whitworth.
She said reports about the robbery made it seem like Rosaga "was a follower and was led by his friends to commit these robberies."
But while his friends were back in school, Rosaga was in court to face felony charges as an adult, Whitworth said.
"No one made him drive the car that night," she said. "No one made him be present. He chose to be there."
Letters from family members and a school vice principal described Rosaga as a caring friend, Whitworth said.
But she said he was also a football player who failed gym class and a "good person who ends up robbing people with a fake gun."
Rosaga had pleaded no contest to a reduced charge of second-degree robbery in the Mahalani Street attempt, with the prosecution dismissing another count of first-degree robbery of the tourist on the beach.
After being indicted and arrested on the charges, Rosaga had been released on supervision, with 2nd Circuit Judge Richard Bissen saying he wanted to see Rosaga continue in school.
But Rosaga was taken back into custody after being arrested Jan. 30 on a charge of theft from Walmart. He was with his mother when he stole a condom and phone charger from the store, Whitworth said.
After seeing Rosaga laughing as the theft was described, Bissen told Rosaga: "You better grow up . . . right now, today. It's not the time to be cool and laugh off stuff. You came to the wrong courtroom to laugh."
Rosaga's attorney, Matthew Padgett, said he hadn't seen his client snickering.
But after spending 81 days in jail, Rosaga "gets it," Padgett said.
"He's young. He's made immature choices," Padgett said. "But a lot of people do at that age.
"He had passive involvement in this. He sat in the car. His friends are the ones that are back in school and not having to suffer the consequences of their actions because of their age."
The names of the other suspects weren't released because they were juveniles. Police said some of the juveniles were believed to have been involved in robberies of visitors in South Maui on Dec. 27 and 28.
"I'd like to say sorry to the victims," Rosaga said in court. "I made some bad choices, and I regret it."
Noting that Rosaga's mother had been attending court proceedings for her son, Bissen said, "It's great to have support, but you may as well have no support if you're not going to listen."
"You'd rather listen to your juvenile friends, and I don't see any of them here today - not one," the judge told Rosaga.
Rosaga was placed on five years' probation and ordered to return to court for monthly monitoring. He was ordered not to consume alcohol or illegal drugs and to have no contact with the victims. Bissen also told Rosaga to go to school Thursday.
"I think you've tested all the limits you need to test," Bissen told Rosaga. "I think it's time you make the right choices."
In an unrelated sentencing, Joseph Kahananui, 28, of Wailuku was sentenced to one year in jail and five years' probation for stealing a gold rope chain from Ben Bridge Jeweler at the Queen Ka'ahumanu Center last year.
During sentencing April 30, Kahananui was ordered to stay away from the jewelry store, to pay $361 in restitution and a $4,796 fine. Bissen followed the terms of a plea agreement.
Kahananui pleaded no contest to second-degree theft from an incident May 30 when he went into Ben Bridge and tried on a 20-inch, 14-karat gold rope chain and ran out of the store, records show. He was later picked out of a police line-up and arrested July 19.
Kahananui admitted to stealing the chain and trading it for crystal methamphetamine.
Kahananui has a lengthy record, including several counts of unauthorized entry into a motor vehicle, criminal property damage and various theft charges.
Defense attorney Andrew Martin said Kahananui struggles with drug addiction and developmental disabilities. He said frequent treatment and follow-up is necessary for Kahananui to succeed on probation.
* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Staff Writer Melissa Tanji contributed to this report.