WAILUKU - A teenager who had been released from a juvenile detention facility three days before a "brutal and tragic" series of robberies and assaults and a kidnapping was sentenced Friday to consecutive prison terms totaling 60 years.
Pohakuloa Kahue was 17 when, in December 2012, he and others robbed and beat a pizza delivery driver in Waiehu, robbed and assaulted a tourist leaving a portable toilet at Makena State Park and beat an 83-year-old man during a robbery and burglary of his home in Wailuku Heights, according to police.
"In a short span of time, coming out of the Hawaii Youth Correctional Facility, you wreaked havoc on this community," 2nd Circuit Judge Joseph Cardoza said in sentencing Kahue.
Pohakuloa Kahue talks with his attorney, Cary Virtue, on Friday morning in 2nd Circuit Court. Kahue was sentenced to prison terms totaling 60 years for a series of robberies and assaults and a kidnapping.
The Maui News LILA FUJIMOTO photo
He had been released from the juvenile facility Dec. 14, 2012, because he was about to turn 18, Cardoza said.
Three days later, at about 7:30 p.m. Dec. 17, the Pizza Hut driver went to Kaae Road in Waiehu after a girl called, giving a false name and ordering a pizza.
Kahue later told police he didn't have any money to pay for the pizza. When the driver reached the address and contacted the girl, Kahue and a friend were hiding in the bushes. The driver was lured into a dark area, "where he was brutally and severely beaten without any warning whatsoever," Cardoza said.
He said Kahue and his friend took the driver to a macadamia nut field on Malaihi Road and left him there before Kahue and the friend left to eat. Although he couldn't walk, the driver managed to crawl to a home and call for help. A police officer who first saw the driver didn't think he was alive and described softball- and golf ball-sized lumps on his head, Cardoza said.
Mabel Corpuz said she learned that her 41-year-old husband, Joel, had been assaulted when she called Pizza Hut after he didn't come home that night.
At the hospital, she saw him with cuts and lacerations. "He could barely open his eyes, but he was able to recognize my voice," she said in court Friday.
She said what happened has left the family, including two daughters, fearful and she no longer allows her husband to leave home at night.
Addressing Kahue, she said, "I hope you know what you did will forever scar us all."
An engineer with a college degree, Joel Corpuz had been working the second job "for relaxation," said his mother, Artelia Corpuz. "I hope Joel will continue to recover physically, but I doubt he will recover emotionally," she said.
The Corpuzes were among about a dozen family members of victims in the courtroom gallery Friday for Kahue's sentencing.
Less than 24 hours after the attack on Corpuz, just after sunset Dec. 18 at Big Beach in Makena, Kahue and his friends spoke to a tourist before the 63-year-old man used the portable toilet at the beach. "When he emerged, he was violently attacked, severely beaten and left there," Cardoza said.
The man's belongings and rental car were taken.
Cardoza said a good Samaritan transported the victim to the Kihei Police Station, and he was taken to the hospital, where he as treated for injuries including a hemorrhage and a nasal fracture.
Again, Kahue and his friends left to eat. "That's just hard to understand how someone could inflict this kind of injury on a human being and feel comfortable eating," Cardoza said.
Then, Kahue and others went to the Wailuku Heights area, looking for a home to burglarize when they entered a residence through a window that was partially open. They were loading a vehicle at the home with belongings but couldn't find the keys and loaded another vehicle when the 83-year-old man living at the home encountered Kahue and his friends, Cardoza said.
He said that Kahue and his friends, "instead of fleeing, decided to beat him and beat him savagely, brutally, without any justification whatsoever."
Mark Rollins said that before that day, "my dad was pretty vibrant for an 83-year-old," climbing ladders and working on stone walls. Now, Rollins said his father is bedridden, doesn't speak and needs constant care.
His father had been in the garage and went into the house while the intruders were still there, Rollins said. "The thing that gets me is they could have run away. They could have turned and easily outrun my dad. He's 83," Rollins said. "But they decided not to, and they beat up an old man. I wish I was there to help him."
First Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Robert Rivera said Daniel Rollins was lying on the ground in a fetal position when he was stomped on, kicked and beaten by two 17-year-olds, including one with a baseball bat.
In court, Mark Rollins told Kahue: "I hope you can change. I hope you do. You should read the Bible, reach out to the Lord. He can change you. He's your only help."
In the three cases, Kahue had pleaded no contest to kidnapping, second-degree robbery, second-degree assault, unauthorized control of a propelled vehicle, first-degree burglary and two counts each of first-degree robbery and first-degree assault.
Under terms of a plea agreement between the defense and prosecution, Kahue - now 19 - couldn't ask to be sentenced to shorter prison terms as a youthful offender.
While Kahue asked that his prison term be limited to 20 years, Rivera argued for prison terms totaling 30 years, the maximum that the state could recommend under the plea agreement.
Rivera said Kahue's crime spree "devastated the lives and relationships of three separate families."
"Not only that, it also paralyzed the small community of Maui in fear and terror," Rivera said.
He said the crimes stopped only because police arrested Kahue, who gave a Haiku address.
The only redeeming factor, Rivera said, was that Kahue confessed to his crimes. "That doesn't make him any less dangerous or less threatening or less of a risk to the safety of the community," Rivera said.
"We're such a small community, when something like this happens, it just doesn't hurt the victims. It affects us as a whole," he said. "We do lose some type of humanity.
"It's always sad when a young man has to go to prison for a long time. But it's even sadder when that young man wreaks that kind of terror and violence on the community."
In court Friday, Kahue turned to those in the gallery.
"I'm sorry to the families I hurt," he said. "I'm not asking for forgiveness. I don't expect it 'cause I had done wrong."
Addressing Rollins, Kahue said, "I have been reading the Bible. I have been reading it for at least a year and three months. I have been trying to change my life, really taking slow steps as much as I can.
"I agree with what the victims' families say," Kahue said. "I do deserve to serve some time so I can change, so I can think of what I have done and try to be a better person."
While ordering that prison terms for counts in each case be served at the same time, Cardoza ordered that the sentence in each case run consecutively for the total of 60 years.
"This does stand out as a very unique and brutal and tragic series of events," Cardoza said.
After summarizing the events, he said, "So in a span of about 36 hours, the lives of three individual families changed dramatically at the hands of Mr. Kahue and his friends.
"All these crimes are well thought out," the judge said. "Not good thinking, but thought out.
"People need to know in this community and in every community that this kind of conduct carries with it severe consequences," Cardoza said. "I don't know what just punishment is. You can never change what happened to these people. Right now, your conduct tells me - in relation to the community - that you are a very, very serious risk to the community and the lives and safety of others."
But Cardoza said Kahue could take advantage of programs while incarcerated. The parole board will decide how much prison time Kahue actually serves.
"What happens will be determined by the choices you make," Cardoza told Kahue. "You're going to have to demonstrate real commitment, and your actions will speak far louder than your words."
* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.