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Unprovoked stabbing at mall draws 10-year term

WAILUKU – For an unprovoked attack on a stranger that turned a shopping center restroom into what a judge called a “bathroom of horrors,” a homeless man was sentenced Wednesday to a 10-year prison term.

“Your actions were unprovoked,” 2nd Circuit Judge Rhonda Loo told Thomas Abraham. “There was no reason for you to attack him.”

In a letter to the court, the victim, 42-year-old Jerry Baoit, said he was afraid to go into a public restroom for long time after he was punched, strangled and stabbed the afternoon of Oct. 12, 2012, in the second-floor restroom near the food court at Queen Ka’ahumanu Center.

“You have affected him deeply,” Loo told Abraham. “Talk about the chamber of horrors. This was the bathroom of horrors for Mr. Baoit.”

Originally charged with second-degree attempt ed murder, Abraham had pleaded no contest to a reduced charge of attempted first-degree assault, as well as second-degree assault.

Abraham, 40, has been in custody since his arrest after the attack.

Baoit told police he was standing at a urinal when he was attacked from behind while only he and Abraham were in the bathroom. In addition to being punched and strangled, Baoit had a puncture wound on the side of his neck and a laceration on the back of his head, apparently from a pair of safety scissors that police found on the bathroom floor.

Abraham “basically attacked another person in the toilet at Ka’ahumanu shopping center for no reason other than he was in a bad mood,” said Deputy Public Defender William “Pili” McGrath. “He will tell you that once he did that, he got in a scuffle for a while. He got the worst of it.”

Others, including a center security officer, intervened to stop the attack.

“The unusual thing is the victim was not seriously hurt in the sense he didn’t even go with the paramedics,” McGrath said.

He said Abraham, who is from Chicago, has no convictions there.

Abraham was transferred to the Hawaii State Hospital and was found mentally unfit to proceed last year after being examined by three court-appointed psychiatrists or psychologists. After being treated there and undergoing another round of mental examinations, Abraham was found mentally fit this year.

After initially being “not in reality” and speaking only “in numbers,” Abraham now has regular conversations, McGrath said.

In court Wednesday, Abraham asked to be placed on probation, saying he was now taking anti-anxiety medication.

“It helps me to be a little bit calmer and not nervous,” Abraham said.

Of the attack, Abraham said, “It was the wrong thing to do at the time. I was having some hard times.

“I learned from being in a correctional facility,” he said. “Jail corrects someone.”

Deputy Prosecutor Carson Tani recommended consecutive prison terms totaling 15 years for Abraham, saying he was “clearly a danger to the community.”

“One of the most terrifying parts of this case is it could have happened to anyone,” Tani said.

He said Baoit thought he was going to die as he was being strangled and told Abraham to “take my wallet, take my money.”

Although Baoit didn’t suffer serious physical injury, “the emotional injuries are still there,” Tani said.

At one point during the attack, Abraham had mounted Baoit and covered his mouth, trying to suffocate him and gouge out his eyes, the judge noted.

“He knew he was losing this battle because he was going in and out of consciousness,” Loo said.

“He just wanted to live that day,” she said. “He did live, but not before you choked him, suffocated him, gouged his eyes, stabbed the back of his neck.”

Loo ordered that Abraham serve 10- and five-year prison terms at the same time. He was ordered to pay $235 in restitution.

* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at lfujimoto@mauinews.com.