Man arrested repeatedly for drunk driving sent to prison

WAILUKU — A Kahului man who continued to drink and drive after being arrested five times for drunken driving was sentenced Tuesday to a five-year prison term.

“I don’t know what the odds are of someone being caught so frequently for drunk driving,” 2nd Circuit Judge Richard Bissen said in sentencing Sixer Sonis. “I just thank the police that are out there to keep people like you from causing any harm.

“None of it has deterred you. You have not demonstrated any ability to stop.”

Sonis, 39, was found guilty of habitually driving under the influence of an intoxicant, driving after his license was suspended or revoked for intoxicated driving and driving without a license in connection with his arrest Nov. 29, 2017.

After being charged in the case, he was admitted into the Maui Drug Court program of treatment and supervision in July 2019, court records show.

Sonis spent nearly a year in the program, at times appearing to do well, said Deputy Prosecutor Kenton Werk.

“The gravity of the situation he had created with these years of repeated drunk driving apparently did not sink in,” Werk said.

He said Sonis was sanctioned for driving illegally without a license and for covering for his brother, who also was in the Drug Court program and driving illegally without a license. His brother was terminated from participating in the program before Sonis also was terminated, “not only for driving illegally but driving while intoxicated,” Werk said.

Sonis was in Drug Court when he was arrested Feb. 24 and charged with habitually driving under the influence of an intoxicant as well as driving while his license was suspended or revoked for intoxicated driving.

“Instead of using the tools Drug Court had given him, he relapsed,” said his attorney, Elizabeth Cuccia. “He made a horrible choice to drink and drive.”

Since then, she said Sonis had been participating in Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and attending men’s group meetings at his church. He was the only one working in his family that includes a newborn, Cuccia said.

Sonis’ brother, wife and pastor, speaking by videoconference, asked the court to give Sonis another chance by placing him on probation.

“I regret everything that I did,” Sonis said. “Right now, I am changing my life for the better.

“I’m willing to do anything to be with my family and just support my family.”

Werk recommended the five-year prison term to protect the public, outlining Sonis’ criminal history that included two DUI arrests on Oahu in March and May 2013. He wasn’t convicted for those arrests before being again arrested for DUI in January and March 2014 on Maui, Werk said.

In July 2014, Sonis was convicted in the two cases and sentenced to a five-day jail term.

In the January 2014 case, he also was arrested for a child seat violation for driving while intoxicated with a child who wasn’t in a car seat in the vehicle, Werk said.

Despite being admonished by District Court judges about the dangers of drunken driving, Sonis was arrested for a fifth time for DUI in July 2016, again with a child who wasn’t secured in a car seat in the vehicle, Werk said.

Sonis was sentenced to 15 days in jail in July 2017, five months before his arrest for habitually driving under the influence of an intoxicant in November 2017, Werk said. He said Sonis’ blood-alcohol level was measured at 0.216 percent, more than twice the legal limit of 0.08 percent.

“The issue isn’t even with you drinking,” Judge Bissen told Sonis. “It’s you driving.”

He asked why Sonis needed to drive after drinking, twice with an unsecured child in his vehicle, when he had a wife, brother and pastor he could ask for a ride.

“I don’t understand any of that,” Bissen said. “Nobody understands any of that ’cause there’s no explanation for that. It’s the combination of drinking and driving that’s illegal.

“You should know that better than anybody else but yet you don’t.

“No one’s calling you a bad person, but you have horrible judgment and you’re very selfish, just thinking about your needs, your wants, not taking into account the safety of the community.”

Despite Sonis’ words, Bissen said there wasn’t anything in a report prepared for the sentencing to indicate long-term change in Sonis’ life.

The judge revoked Sonis’ license for an additional two years, consecutive to the five-year revocation ordered by the Administrative Driver’s License Revocation Office, for a total of seven years.

For his impaired-driving arrest last year, Sonis was sentenced Friday to 30-day jail terms, to be served at the same time, and was ordered to pay $4,000 in fines.

He had pleaded no contest to charges of DUI, reduced from habitual DUI, and driving after his license was suspended or revoked for impaired driving.

Sonis was arrested Feb. 23 when he ran a stop sign and turned the corner in front of a parked police car, said Deputy Prosecutor Sally Tobin. When an officer stopped Sonis’ vehicle, he smelled of liquor, had slurred speech and appeared to have urinated on himself, Tobin said. She said Sonis failed sobriety testing.

Second Circuit Judge Rhonda Loo wondered why Sonis continued to drink and drive, despite having been jailed and having his driver’s license suspended and revoked for two 10-year periods, including one that is still in effect.

“You sound like a broken record at this point,” she told Sonis. “You keep drinking and driving, drinking and driving.”

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


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