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Man sentenced again in gas pump fire

A man convicted of arson for setting a fire at a Kahului gas station was sentenced to a 10-year prison term last week, after his original conviction and sentence were vacated by an appeals court.

Brandon Oania, 35, pleaded no contest to a reduced charge of second-degree arson for the fire at 11:15 p.m. Jan. 24, 2016, at Tesoro Gas Express on Puunene Avenue.

Oania got a ride with his father to the gas station that night. While his father went into the convenience store to pay for $5 in gas, surveillance video showed Oania spraying gasoline and laying down a line of gasoline, according to evidence at his trial in 2017.

Oania’s father drove away as flames erupted at the pump.

A Tesoro employee turned off the pumps before a bystander used a fire extinguisher to put out the blaze.

After a jury found Oania guilty of first-degree arson, he was sentenced in November 2017 to a 20-year prison term and was ordered to pay $35,093 in restitution.

In appealing the conviction and sentence, attorney Matthew Kohm argued that the jury should have received an instruction on causation of the damage and the lesser charge of second-degree arson.

At trial, Oania agreed that the amount of damage exceeded $20,000 required for the first-degree arson charge.

In a Feb. 26 order sending the case back to 2nd Circuit Court, the Intermediate Court of Appeals cited trial testimony that flames traveled to the gas dispenser and it exploded, blowing off a handle.

“However, there was also testimony that, in putting out the fire, a bystander injected chemicals from a fire extinguisher into one of the nozzles attached to the dispenser,” the order said. “It was later determined that the dispenser was too damaged to repair, and that the damage was caused by the fire and the extinguisher’s chemicals.

“Thus, one critical issue at trial was whether Oania’s conduct caused damage in excess of $20,000.”

As part of his sentence imposed July 29 by 2nd Circuit Judge Rhonda Loo, Oania was ordered to pay $20,000 in restitution.

Kohm said Oania pleaded no contest to the reduced arson charge “to take responsibility and move on.”

“We are appreciative that the court sentenced him accordingly,” Kohm said. “Brandon has been working as a cook at the prison and is responsible for other workers.”

Oania, who is incarcerated at Saguaro Correctional Center in Arizona, agreed to appear by videoconference for his sentencing.

Oania is also serving the prison sentence at the same time as a five-year prison term for attempted third-degree arson for pouring motor oil on gas tanks and trying to ignite them at about 3:30 a.m. Feb. 5, 2016, at Maui Oil in Kahului.

No damage was reported due to the intervention of the workers, police said.

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

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