Truck stuck in ditch stolen; thief sent to jail

WAILUKU — A six-month jail term has been ordered for a Hana man who was seen driving someone else’s pickup truck after retrieving it from a ditch following a crash last year.

John Kahalehoe, 25, had spray-painted the 1994 Sonoma pickup truck black, telling police he liked the color.

While placing Kahalehoe on four years’ probation Wednesday, 2nd Circuit Judge Rhonda Loo warned Kahalehoe that he would face more serious consequences and would again be wearing orange if he doesn’t comply with court requirements.

“Orange is going to be your new favorite color,” she told Kahalehoe. “Orange is going to be the new black.”

Kahalehoe had pleaded no contest to first-degree unauthorized entry into a motor vehicle, with other charges dismissed in exchange for his plea.

The owner was driving the pickup truck on Jan. 9, 2018, when it went into the ditch in a single-vehicle crash, said Deputy Prosecutor Jeffery Temas. He said the owner returned to the crash site four days later and discovered his truck had been removed.

Temas said Kahalehoe had been seen with the spray-painted truck after towing the vehicle from the ditch with co-defendant Justice Hoopai.

After being released from jail on supervision when he entered the no-contest plea in December, Kahalehoe was back in custody last month for violating requirements of his release by not checking in.

Deputy Public Defender Danielle Sears said family members, who were in the courtroom gallery to support Kahalehoe, have a plan for him to work restoring taro patches in Hana and to get drug treatment when he is released.

“He had a mistaken understanding of what he thought he could do with what he thought was an abandoned car,” Sears said. “He now knows he cannot do it.”

Judge Loo said, “Obviously, it was somebody’s vehicle, abandoned sticker or not.”

Noting that the truck’s engine was flushed and it was running after being towed from the ditch, Loo said it sounded like Kahalehoe is good at fixing cars.

“Put your skills and your tools to legal use,” she told him.

She said that when Kahalehoe previously was on probation, he complied with only one of 22 requirements. “You haven’t proven yourself so far,” she told Kahalehoe. “I really hope you prove yourself this time.”

As part of his sentence, Kahalehoe was ordered to perform 200 hours of community service and to write a letter apologizing to the truck owner.

According to court records, Kahalehoe was on probation for second-degree unauthorized entry into a dwelling and violating a temporary restraining order in a 2016 case.

Co-defendant Hoopai is awaiting sentencing.