WAILUKU - A 32-year-old Waianae man, whose attorney called him the "follower" in two gas station robberies and a threatening case last year, was sentenced to five years in prison on Wednesday.
"Followers can be just as responsible, just as culpable as leaders," said 2nd Circuit Judge Rhonda Loo as she sentenced Namon Kalani Parks according to a plea agreement.
Loo noted Parks' criminal record showed him going in and out of prison, even shortly before the latest cases.
"You've been given opportunities to turn your life around," Loo said. But "you turned your life upside down."
Parks pleaded no contest to two reduced counts of second-degree theft, down from first-degree robbery, and no contest to first-degree terroristic threatening in another case.
The charges stem from two robberies on Nov. 13, with the first at 5:05 a.m. at Port Town Chevron on Kaahumanu Avenue in Kahului and the second at 6:05 a.m. at Kihei Chevron on South Kihei Road.
In both robberies, a man identified as Bronson Foster-Benson, 21, of Kihei was the gunman, while Parks acted as a lookout.
Foster-Benson brandished a handgun and demanded money from employees while Parks was at the door. The men fled with $300 in the first robbery and $131 in the second.
In a terroristic threatening incident on Nov. 1, a couple of weeks before the robberies, Parks pointed a handgun, which was later determined to be an airsoft pistol, at a woman who tried to intervene when her son's car was being damaged, said Deputy Prosecutor Mark Simonds.
Foster-Benson had gone to confront another man, with whom he had "words" previously, and the victim's mother had approached a vehicle where Parks was sitting; he then pointed the pistol at the woman, Simonds said.
Parks had followed Foster-Benson to confront the man, Simonds said.
Police recovered firearms and arrested Foster-Benson and Parks nearby after a chase.
Foster-Benson is awaiting sentencing in the cases.
Defense attorney Al Albrechtson said that while there is no excuse for Parks' actions, his background provides an explanation for some of the incidents.
Parks' father had been in prison since Parks was a year old, and he was raised by a relative in a troubled environment, Albrechtson said.
"He basically had no direction; no support," he said.
Albrechtson said Parks is reserved and soft-spoken and not a leader.
Parks had come to Maui last year to train for a mixed martial arts event, but instead ended up befriending Foster-Benson and his group.
Albrechtson said Parks was only the lookout in the robbery cases and in the threatening case, Parks did not verbally threaten the woman but instead sat in the car and raised a gun.
But Simonds said that while Parks could be soft-spoken, "he is capable of violence."
Simonds noted Parks' involvement in an Oahu case that included kidnapping a person from a bus stop and forcing the person to withdraw money from an automated teller machine.
"The community deserves protection from him," he said.
* Melissa Tanji can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.