WAILUKU - A Lahaina man who said his house was in foreclosure when police seized more than 7 ounces of cocaine and six guns from the residence was sentenced Wednesday to a 10-year prison term.
"Most people don't turn to selling drugs or having this huge amount of cocaine in their house to pay off their foreclosure bills," 2nd Circuit Judge Rhonda Loo told Kawika Chung. "But you did."
Originally charged with first-degree promotion of a dangerous drug, the 37-year-old had pleaded no contest to a reduced charge of second-degree promotion of a dangerous drug and three counts of not obtaining a permit to acquire a firearm.
Police vice officers had obtained search warrants targeting Chung as a cocaine dealer when they went to his home on Lokia Street on March 20, 2009, said Deputy Prosecutor Tracy Jones.
In a search of the house, she said police found 7.35 ounces of cocaine having a street value of $11,000, as well as $5,245 in cash and paraphernalia including scales, packets and a spoon. Police also recovered six firearms including rifles and a shotgun, 453 rounds of .22-caliber ammunition and four shotgun slugs, Jones said. Three of the firearms were unregistered.
"The firearms were around the house," she said. "Several were found in the room where the cocaine was found."
She said one rifle was surrounded by children's clothing and an overturned children's toy.
In court Wednesday, Chung apologized "to my family for putting them through this for the last three years."
His attorney, Philip Lowenthal, said Chung had already been doing what many people promise to do when they appear in court.
"He's maintained employment, he's lived a law-abiding life," Lowenthal said. "He's done extensive work in the community."
Chung has no history of violence and was unlikely to reoffend, Lowenthal said.
At the time of the offense, he said, Chung "was under extreme circumstances" that made what occurred "not justifiable but understandable."
While Chung asked for probation, Jones argued for the prison term, saying it was appropriate for the crime.
"This was a purely financially motivated crime," she said. "He's a drug dealer, and he's not making any excuses for it other than he needed the money."
At the time, Chung said his house was in foreclosure and "the only way to get out was a big lump sum of money." He said he was now trying to work with the bank.
Responding to comments about firearms in the home with young children, Chung said the firearm in the room with the children's toys had a trigger lock and was kept next to his bed for home protection. "A shotgun makes a nice sound that will clear a yard," he said.
He said ammunition was stored separately.
Loo noted that both Chung and his wife were working and had two residences. In addition to the cocaine, police found more than 100 grams of marijuana at the home, she said.
"You had so many things going for you, yet you turned to the dark side," Loo told Chung. "When you turn to the dark side, sometimes you have to pay for it."
The six firearms from the home were forfeited to the state.
* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at email@example.com.