Abuse, 162 pot plants put man back in prison

WAILUKU — After being arrested for abusing his ex-girlfriend, growing 162 marijuana plants and violating a restraining order within a year of his release on parole, a Molokai man has been sentenced to a five-year prison term.

“I cannot fathom why giving you another opportunity on probation is going to work,” 2nd Circuit Judge Rhonda Loo said in sentencing Micah Lopez on Wednesday. “You’re one of those that hits the snooze button and doesn’t care. You just go back to sleep.”

In three criminal cases, Lopez, 39, had pleaded no contest to first-degree promoting of a detrimental drug, possessing drug paraphernalia, violating a temporary restraining order and abuse.

In one case, police were called at 1:56 a.m. March 15 when his ex-girlfriend and mother of his child reported that Lopez had hit her in the face. Police officers reported she had a swollen face and eyes and lacerations on her lips.

Lopez told police she had pushed him before he slapped her and said she must have gone to the back of the house and tripped to cause other injuries.

“I’m not denying that I did slap her twice,” Lopez said in court. “We both said our apologies. She knew she was wrong. I knew I was wrong. No matter what a woman does, she doesn’t deserve a man to put his hands on her.”

Judge Loo said that was “absolutely correct,” noting that Lopez’s ex-girlfriend was the one with the visible injuries.

Lopez was arrested again May 21 when police executed a search warrant at his residence.

“You’re caught in your bedroom, buck naked with a 16-year-old girl,” Loo said to Lopez.

Even though the girl’s mother had filed a restraining order on behalf of the girl, “You were absolutely in contact with this 16-year-old,” Loo told Lopez.

She said police found 162 marijuana plants, which Lopez told police he used for medical purposes despite not having a medical marijuana card. Police also seized a methamphetamine pipe, drug paraphernalia and a bullet that Lopez said belonged to others.

About a week later on May 25, the restraining order was still in effect when Lopez reportedly approached the 16-year-old girl’s brother, also a juvenile, at Cooke Memorial Pool and words were exchanged.

“In this three-month period, you had marijuana plants, you violated restraining orders, you’re beating up your ex-girlfriend,” Loo said to Lopez.

While he apologized for growing marijuana in a letter to the court, he didn’t mention the other crimes, Loo said.

“I just don’t know where your head is,” she told Lopez. “You’ve been on probation before, you’ve been to prison before. You’ve been on parole before. And those convictions keep adding up.”

According to the Hawaii Criminal Justice Data Center, Lopez has prior convictions for three counts of first-degree criminal trespassing, third-degree theft, abuse, harassment, second-degree commercial promotion of marijuana and possessing drug paraphernalia. After at first being placed on probation in 2000 in the marijuana case, his probation was revoked and he was resentenced to a 10-year prison term in 2008, court records show.

Lopez had asked for another chance on probation Wednesday.

Deputy Public Defender Ben Lowenthal said Lopez was motivated to follow court requirements and planned to stay on Maui.

“He knows he’s got to cut his ties with Molokai,” Lowenthal said.

Referring to Lopez’s criminal past, Judge Loo said his latest arrests and convictions “should be more than an eye-opener.”

“Where have your eyes been for the last 17 years?” she said. “Have they not been open for the last 17 years?

“You’ve had so many chances. You don’t get it. You’ve had so many wake-up calls.”

Lopez also was ordered to pay a $500 fine.

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