Jury finds woman guilty of driving a stolen truck

WAILUKU — A woman who testified she had gotten a ride with a stranger when she was stopped for speeding was found guilty in a stolen-vehicle case.

A 2nd Circuit Court jury returned the verdict Tuesday afternoon, convicting Breeze Carvalho, 38, of unauthorized control of a propelled vehicle.

“The defendant knew exactly what she was doing,” Deputy Prosecutor Lyle Keanini said in closing arguments to jurors Tuesday morning. “She knew she didn’t have permission from the registered owner, but she drove the truck anyway.”

Carvalho was arrested after police solo bike officer James Burkett stopped her for speeding in a school zone on Kula Highway in Keokea while she was driving the 2014 Toyota Tacoma at 10:12 a.m. Sept. 19. A man was in the passenger seat, Burkett said.

When the officer asked for her identification, Carvalho gave her name as Mary Lynn Gilleo and said she was visiting from Portland, Ore., and didn’t have her driver’s license with her, Burkett testified.

Police dispatch couldn’t find a license issued to anyone by that name, he said.

Burkett said he told Carvalho to wait as he went back to his motorcycle to get her citation. The ticket was printing on his motorcycle when Carvalho stepped out of the truck and approached him, Burkett said. The passenger also got out of the truck and began walking in the opposite direction, looking back over his shoulder at the officer.

“Now I’m suspicious,” Burkett said.

He had police dispatch check on the license plate number on the truck, learning it belonged to a rental van. Then Burkett obtained the vehicle identification number from the windshield and learned the truck had been reported stolen the day before in a burglary of a Kihei home.

He handcuffed Carvalho, who apologized and said she had lied about her name earlier, Burkett said.

When he asked where her passenger was going, Carvalho said she didn’t know, Burkett said. “She said she just met him and she only knew his name as Josh.”

By then, the man was already out of view, Burkett said.

Testifying in her defense, Carvalho said she had been at Longs Drugs Kulamalu with her boyfriend earlier that morning. After they argued, she went into the store and made purchases, then went back into the parking lot and her boyfriend was gone, Carvalho said.

She was sitting in front of the store when a man who was in a truck in the parking lot began talking to her and asking if she needed help, Carvalho said. After at first brushing him off and saying she wasn’t going to get into the truck, Carvalho said the man told her she could drive.

“He jingled the keys out the window,” she said. “I figured it was better than walking down the road. And I felt safer because he wasn’t going to be in control of the vehicle, because he couldn’t just take me wherever he wanted to.”

She said she wanted to go to Grandma’s Coffee House in Keokea to find her boyfriend.

When the police officer pulled over the truck on the way there, Carvalho said, the passenger “got very tense.”“He started shoving items under the seat, into his backpack,” she said.

Carvalho said she gave the officer the name of a classmate in Oregon because her driver’s license wasn’t valid, and she didn’t want to get a ticket.

She got out of the truck during the traffic stop after “Josh” wouldn’t talk to or look at her as she asked for the vehicle paperwork, Carvalho said.

“He’s got veins popping out of his neck,” she said. “His mood has changed. I’m not safe.”

Responding to a juror’s question about why she didn’t tell the police officer the truck wasn’t her vehicle, Carvalho said, “I didn’t get a chance in the beginning.”

In his closing arguments, Deputy Public Defender Tyler Stevenson said Carvalho didn’t know she didn’t have permission to drive the truck.

“Breeze thought she had permission from Josh, that this guy was nice and just trying to help her out,” Stevenson said.

He said the prosecution’s case amounted to “an incomplete story,” with no evidence presented about the Kihei burglary or reports from two other police officers at the scene of the traffic stop.

“I’m sure you still have questions,” Stevenson told jurors. “You still feel the story is incomplete. That is reasonable doubt.”

Keanini noted that the charge of unauthorized control of a propelled vehicle doesn’t require knowing that a vehicle is stolen.

Carvalho’s account didn’t make sense, he said.

“Her story is absolutely ridiculous,” Keanini said.

“She lied from the very beginning,” he said. “Why would anyone believe her now?”

Carvalho’s sentencing was set for May 31 on the felony charge, which carries a penalty of up to five years in prison. She is being held in lieu of $5,000 bail at the Maui Community Correctional Center.

Judge Richard Bissen presided over the trial, which began Monday.

In two pending cases, Carvalho is charged with unauthorized control of a propelled vehicle, credit card theft, fraudulent use of a credit card and fourth-degree theft.

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