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Haiku man is given 10-year prison sentence for crimes ‘fueled by drugs’

The Maui News

WAILUKU — For a series of crimes linked to his drug addiction, a Haiku man was sentenced Friday to 10 years in prison.

Keala Baker, 34, committed the crimes from March 2019 to July 2020 in “a crime spree apparently fueled by drugs,” said Deputy Prosecutor Anthony Herndon.

“The conduct included breaking into vehicles, breaking into homes, stealing numerous items from random unassuming victims,” Herndon said. “It also includes drug offenses.

“Based on his conduct, the state does feel he is a danger to the community and that prison is the only sentence that would keep the community safe.”

In nine criminal cases, Baker had pleaded no contest to two counts of first-degree unauthorized entry into a motor vehicle, two counts of second-degree promotion of a dangerous drug, two counts of first-degree theft, two counts of first-degree burglary, second-degree criminal property damage, unauthorized control of a propelled vehicle and second-degree theft.

A plea agreement between the prosecution and defense recommended concurrent 10- and five-year prison terms for the charges for a maximum of 10 years.

“These charges are all a product of his severe drug addiction, which has created criminal behavior in him as well,” said Deputy Public Defender Danielle Sears.

She said the prison sentence would be a “very, very, very long timeout” for Baker, who had matured while incarcerated for more than a year.

Letters to the court “show he’s a good guy, family man when he’s sober,” Sears said.

Baker’s father said methamphetamine already had cost his son the first eight years of his daughter’s life and his marriage.

“He’s a skilled carpenter. He’s a very hard worker. I know he can get a job when he’s released,” his father said. “I don’t want to in any way minimize what happened to the community. It should never have happened. But I love Keala and I want the best for him.”

Defense attorney David Wiltsie said Baker’s life had “spiraled out of control.”

“Keala is a good guy when he’s off drugs,” Wiltsie said. “Ice is the issue.”

Baker apologized.

“I’m ashamed for what I’ve done,” he said in court. “I want to apologize to my dad most of all. I didn’t target anybody. I wasn’t a good person.”

Second Circuit Judge Richard Bissen said that while the prison sentence was long, “it’s actually a very short time compared to what you did.”

“You get the same sentence for doing 10 or 12 crimes as you get for doing one crime,” the judge told Baker.

When Bissen asked why Baker had failed the Maui Drug Court program of treatment and supervision, Baker said he “took the opportunity for granted.”

“I didn’t fully apply myself to what they were teaching, and they were teaching the right way to succeed in life,” he said. “I missed an opportunity. I think it’s a good program.”

Bissen said part of the reason Baker failed Drug Court was that he started selling drugs.

“You started distributing while you were in the program . . . getting other people addicted and making money off other people’s misery,” Bissen said.

In following the plea agreement to sentence Baker, Bissen said he wanted to give Baker the chance to return to his family while clean and sober.

“One thing I’ve learned over the last 30 years is people don’t change because the court ordered them to,” Bissen said. “People change because they’re ready to change. The key to all of this is readiness, whether it’s domestic violence or whether it’s drugs, gambling.

“What prison does is it makes people ready.”

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