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Man gets lesser sentence after appeal

The Maui News

WAILUKU — A man who had been serving a five-year prison term was resentenced and placed on four years’ probation Thursday after an appeals court vacated his prison sentence.

John Decambra, 45, had pleaded no contest to a reduced charge of second-degree assault and third-degree promotion of a dangerous drug.

He was arrested Oct. 26, 2019, when he struck another man in the face with a hatchet in Wailuku, police reported.

On June 30, 2020, Decambra was sentenced to five years in prison, with the judge commenting on the “severe act of violence” that resulted in the victim being treated for a hatchet gash on his head. The judge also referred to Decambra’s “extensive criminal record.”

Decambra appealed the sentence, alleging the prosecution breached the plea agreement that called for probation and up to one year in jail.

In a summary disposition order handed down in May, the Intermediate Court of Appeals said the prosecution didn’t say anything about the plea agreement during Decambra’s sentencing when it “was required to make it clear to the Circuit Court that it supported the imposition of probation” with the condition of one year in jail and early release to treatment.

The appeals court vacated Decambra’s sentence and sent the case back to Circuit Court for resentencing by a different judge.

At the resentencing Thursday, both the prosecution and defense asked the court to follow the plea agreement and place Decambra on probation.

He had already spent almost one year and eight months in jail, said his attorney, Cynthia Kagiwada, who was appointed to handle Decambra’s appeal.

She said Decambra had problems with methamphetamine and marijuana in the past and “is really serious about changing his life.”

“I was wrong for what I did,” Decambra said. “I made wrong decisions when I was in my addiction. I realize I need help. That is why I’m seeking treatment. With treatment, I know I can make better decisions in my life.”

While Decambra’s drug issues were part of the case, 2nd Circuit Judge Peter Cahill said “this was a pretty brutal attack on someone who was just sleeping” on Decambra’s property at 2:30 a.m.

The victim told police he was hit again with a hammer because he wasn’t moving fast enough when Decambra tried to get the man off the property.

In court Thursday, Decambra said the man had broken into a tenant’s house on the property earlier in the evening and had been told to leave. “I booted him off,” Decambra said, before he returned hours later to find the man trying to break into another tenant’s residence on the property owned by Decambra’s uncle.

Decambra said the man had stolen a backpack.

“I grabbed the backpack, he swung with an axe. I defended myself,” Decambra said. “I admit I was in my addiction at the time. I wish that didn’t happen. I wish he didn’t try attack me with an axe. I messed up.”

Judge Cahill asked: “Was it wrong to do what you did?”

“Yes, I admit it was wrong,” Decambra said. “I like one chance just to get out and prove myself. I ain’t coming back.”

Because of what Decambra said in court, Cahill said he wouldn’t sentence Decambra to prison.

“I’m going to give you the chance,” Cahill told Decambra. “You persuaded me. Now maybe I know the rest of the story.

“It doesn’t cast your guilt in doubt but casts this story in doubt and should be factored into the sentencing,” Cahill said.

As part of his four years’ probation, Decambra was ordered not to consume alcohol or illegal drugs and to complete anger management treatment.

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