WAILUKU - A Lahaina man who admitted he had been selling cocaine was sentenced Thursday to a 10-year prison term.
Steven Van Smith, 58, said that after serving his time, he hoped to be released into a rehabilitation program and work to change his life.
"He really needs treatment," said Deputy Public Defender Danielle Sears. "That's what he's been looking for the most.
"He got really big into substances and realized this is almost a blessing in disguise. He's ready to change where he was going in his life. It's unfortunate it has to be in prison, but he realizes that's the case here."
Smith had pleaded no contest to a reduced charge of second-degree promotion of a dangerous drug, as well as possessing drug paraphernalia, in connection with his arrest Dec. 6, 2010.
That day, police executed warrants to search Smith and his residence, seizing 12 ounces of cocaine and $14,330, said Deputy Prosecutor Tracy Jones. She said police obtained the warrants based on information, developed by vice officer Asbel Polanco, that Smith was distributing large amounts of cocaine.
"He admitted at some length to his drug dealing," Jones said. "He said he had a Mexican connection."
Smith told police he had been buying 1 kilogram of cocaine every six weeks for $38,000, earning $7,000 in profit on each kilogram, Jones said. She said he reported that the drugs were delivered by Federal Express or United Parcel Service.
"He also said he had moved several times and never missed a shipment of cocaine," Jones said. "He had moved to Florida and back to Hawaii. He continued his drug dealing in both states."
She said the money recovered by police included $300 used for a cocaine buy monitored by police that led to the obtaining of the warrants. In exchange for Smith's pleas, the state agreed not to prosecute Smith in that case, Jones said. Smith had agreed to be sentenced to the 10-year prison term.
"He may need treatment, but he needs to be removed from the community," Jones said.
"He's a mid- to high-level drug dealer in our community. Praise goes to the Police Department for another successful investigation identifying him as a drug dealer, recovering the evidence and building the case."
Speaking in court Thursday, Smith acknowledged he had been selling cocaine.
"I was dealing, yes," he said. "I'm going to try and clean my life up, that's the only thing I can promise."
In addition to entering a rehabilitation program, Smith said he wanted to move back to Oahu and possibly look for another vocation.
"The police were straight up and up with me," he said. "They got me."
Second Circuit Judge Joseph Cardoza said Smith acknowledged he needs to change his life dramatically.
"You recognize that if you don't do that, you may not be alive," the judge told Smith. "I hope you make the changes you need to make."
* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.