WAILUKU - A Makawao man was given a one-year jail term Wednesday for a traffic death that occurred when he accelerated into an elderly man in a crosswalk while rushing to work two years ago.
Rodelio Nono, 46, also was put on five years' probation and ordered to pay about $11,500 in restitution to the family of the victim, 87-year-old Bomani Kim.
"Our hearts go out to the victim's family, and nothing we say could change anything," Deputy Public Defender Wendy Hudson said. "(Nono) will live with it for the rest of his life and asks for forgiveness from the Kim ohana."
The incident occurred around 6:45 a.m. Aug. 8, 2012, when Kim was crossing Waena Street in a marked crosswalk in Wailuku, police said. Nono was driving a yellow 2000 Kenworth commercial tractor-trailer in the Waihee direction on Waena Street and failed to stop at a stop sign before turning right onto Eha Street, police said.
Kim, a Wailuku resident, was crossing Waena Street from the northeast side and heading southwest when he was struck by the tractor-trailer, police said.
Nono had pleaded no contest to first-degree negligent homicide.
Maui County Prosecuting Attorney John D. Kim said a witness at the scene saw the victim's body thrown out the back wheels of the tractor-trailer and that there were no signs of skid marks from trying to stop at the stop sign.
"He was accelerating through the intersection," Kim said, adding that Nono was in a hurry to arrive at his workplace, Tri-Isle Inc. in Wailuku. "He was grossly negligent."
Hudson argued that Nono could not see the victim due to the height of the tractor-trailer and the shorter victim. She said Nono cannot see anything 6 feet in front of his vehicle and that the victim was only 5 feet, 4 inches tall.
"He could not see him," she said. "This is an unfortunate accident, but it is an accident."
The prosecutor pointed out that Nono has been employed by his company for the past five years and has to seek regular training for his commercial driver's license.
"They have to be held to higher standards," he said. "They have to think about the size of the vehicle they're driving, and Nono knows that."
Hudson asked the court to sentence Nono to 30 days in jail and a recessed sentence that would allow him to be released from jail so he could work his two part-time jobs and provide for his family. She also asked that his regular driver's license be suspended for 30 days.
"He is the main driver and sole provider for his family," Hudson said, adding that Nono's son could drive him to work for the first month until he gets his license renewed.
Nono apologized to the court for his actions and turned to look at Bomani Kim's son, developer Sterling Kim, who was sitting in the gallery during Wednesday's sentencing.
"Please forgive me," he said. "I stopped at the stop sign and it's freak accident. I'm really, really sorry."
Second Circuit Court Judge Richard Bissen said that it is a "scary thought" that Nono claims he could not see in front of him for conceivably the past five years while driving tractor-trailers for Tri-Isle Inc.
"How can somebody drive on roads and say you cannot see people in front of you?" he asked.
Bissen said he believes Nono did not see the victim, but also that he did not look to his right before making the turn onto Eha Street.
"He did not look and the reason he did not look is because he took cues from what's happening on the road in front of him," Bissen said.
Bissen said a car was turning left in the lane next to Nono, meaning there were no cars heading northeast from his left side. He added that there was a "clear lane of travel" and that Nono had already started his vehicle to the right when he eventually ran over the victim.
"It's not because he couldn't see, he didn't look," Bissen said. "That was the accident that happened. That was the negligence. That is what he has never admitted to."
Bissen ordered that Nono's driver's license be revoked for one year and denied his request for recessed sentencing. However, he may renew the request in 90 days.
"I do think this was an accident and that he did not intend any harm to anyone that day, but he was in a little hurry," Bissen said. "Perhaps, the height of the truck factors in, but he still has to be looking first."
* Chris Sugidono can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.