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Man sentenced to 20 years in prison for manslaughter

Victim was left ‘bleeding and unconscious’ after beating

Healohaomakanaamekai Akahi Pua talks with his attorney, David Wiltsie, during his sentencing Thursday in 2nd Circuit Court. Akahi Pua was sentenced to a 20-year prison term for manslaughter in the beating of 39-year-old Kahului resident Michael Colby. The Maui News / LILA FUJIMOTO photo

WAILUKU – A Haiku man was sentenced Tuesday to a 20-year prison term for manslaughter in the killing of a man five years ago near Kaa Point in Kahului.

Healohaomakanaamekai Akahi Pua, 28, had been charged with second-degree murder before pleading no contest in February to the lesser charge for recklessly causing the death of 39-year-old Michael Colby.

“This was a beating, an undeserved beating,” Deputy Prosecutor Mike Kagami said, in arguing for the 20-year prison term.

He said the prosecution recognized that Akahi Pua has no prior criminal record. “But his actions resulted in the death of Michael Colby,” Kagami said. “Michael Colby did not deserve to die that day.”

The Kahului resident’s body was found at about 12:30 p.m. March 19, 2016, in brush near Kaa Point.

His Ford Ranger pickup truck with a white camper shell was parked nearby along Amala Place with its windshield, side windows, taillights, headlight and passenger-side mirror shattered.

Kagami said a witness told police Colby was walking away when he turned and was “false cracked” by Akahi Pua. Colby fell to the ground and Akahi Pua delivered three more punches, the witness told police.

Akahi Pua also told police “he kept punching him even after he fell down,” Kagami said. Akahi Pua reported leaving Colby “bleeding and unconscious” the night before his body was found.

An autopsy report noted that Colby suffered head and neck injuries and a fractured rib, Kagami said. He said there were no injuries to Colby’s hands or fingernails, indicating there hadn’t been a mutual fight.

Akahi Pua, who is known as “Mana,” asked to be placed on 10 years’ probation.

“I’m just very sorry,” he said in court Tuesday.

His attorney, David Wiltsie, said what happened that night stemmed from a traffic-related altercation after Colby reportedly sideswiped a vehicle occupied by members of Akahi Pua’s family.

Akahi Pua was with other family members when he located Colby in the area of the park. “There was a discussion,” Wiltsie said, and Colby “pushed” Akahi Pua.

Wiltsie said Akahi Pua “defended himself and struck back.”

Akahi Pua told police Colby was “snoring” when he left the area.

“It’s truly unfortunate,” Wiltsie said. “There’s a total disconnect in my mind between the alleged events and the individual everybody else seems to know. He’s a man who’s well respected.”

Akahi Pua is “seen as a peacemaker” who is known to “defuse and de-escalate” confrontations in his job for Pono Security at Haiku Marketplace, Wiltsie said.

“That’s why this is such an anomaly in every respect that he stands here today,” Wiltsie said.

Akahi Pua spent nearly two years in jail before being released on his own recognizance in April 2018 when a previous deputy prosecutor asked for a delay the week before a trial had been set.

For the sentencing, letters were submitted by family members and friends of both Colby and Akahi Pua, 2nd Circuit Judge Peter Cahill said.

He said it was rare for someone to be placed on probation for manslaughter. A legislative conference report prepared for a change in the law said probation was appropriate “only in the most extraordinary of circumstances,” Cahill noted.

He said Akahi Pua’s case did involve extraordinary circumstances but they didn’t favor the defendant.

“It’s extraordinary because I have a young man who doesn’t have any problems with the law, who’s loved by his family and loved by his friends,” Cahill said. “But on that particular day, March 18, 2016, he killed somebody. That’s the single most extraordinary event that occurred that day.”

Cahill said it was disturbing that others were there as Colby was being beaten and left him there.

His fractured rib didn’t appear to be something caused just by falling on the ground, Cahill said.

He said the “snoring” that Akahi Pua described might have been gurgling, as the autopsy showed Colby’s hyoid bone in his throat was broken and his jaw was broken at the midline — injuries that appeared to have been from a punch.

“There’s massive head trauma here,” Cahill said. “I’m being graphic here because that’s what the extraordinary circumstances are. It’s extraordinary because the blows that were struck caused this much damage to a person.”

The judge read portions of one letter talking about Colby, an artist who painted landscapes and had moved to Maui from Encinitas, Calif., about five years before his death.

“Mike is the victim and he suffered the greatest loss by not being able to fulfill his dream,” part of the letter said. It ended, “Rest in Paint.”

Cahill said he didn’t see “any other true option” than to impose the 20-year prison term on Akahi Pua.

The Hawaii Paroling Authority will set the minimum term he must serve before being eligible for parole.

“The court would not stand in the way of setting a parole date that’s commensurate with what’s in this record, while at the same time recognizing his actions caused somebody else to die,” Cahill said.

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

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