WAILUKU - Describing a Kahului jewelry store heist as brazen and blatant, a judge ordered a one-year jail term for a man who used brass knuckles to smash a glass showcase and steal more than $95,000 in gold jewelry.
Kyle Lau, 20, of Waiehu also was ordered to pay $496 in restitution and was placed on five years' probation Friday.
He had pleaded no contest to first-degree theft, second-degree burglary and fourth-degree criminal property damage in the April 17 theft from Island Creation Jewelers at the Queen Ka'ahumanu Center.
"Your behavior was very brazen. It was blatant," 2nd Circuit Judge Rhonda Loo told Lau.
She noted that Lau had cased the store two weeks earlier. The day of the theft, he wore a bandanna and gloves and pulled a hoodie over his head as he entered the family-owned business, Loo said.
"This isn't a simple smash and grab," she said. "This is a major smash and grab."
Store owner Chris Otsuka said the thief was carrying a replica of a semiautomatic handgun when he entered the store while two women were working.
After the thief shattered the display case, stole the gold chains and ran, Otsuka said, he had to quickly decide whether to chase the suspect, not knowing whether he had an accomplice or whether the weapon was real.
"It was a horrifying experience to know that I was putting my life in jeopardy," Otsuka said in court.
Running barefoot, he caught up with Lau, who was apprehended and arrested. The stolen jewelry was recovered.
Otsuka said he didn't agree with the terms of a "generous" plea agreement recommending probation and up to one year in jail for Lau. By pleading no contest rather than guilty, Otsuka said, Lau wasn't owning up to what he did.
"This isn't a mere shoplifting case or a crime of opportunity," Otsuka said. "This robbery was violent and predatory in nature."
Deputy Prosecutor Kerry Glen said the office tried to involve Otsuka in the resolution of the case.
While acknowledging that he wasn't happy with the prosecution's plea offer, Glen said it took into account factors including the crime and Lau's criminal history.
Lau's only prior criminal record is an arrest for domestic violence in Las Vegas, said Deputy Public Defender William "Pili" McGrath.
He said the theft stemmed from Lau's gambling problem. "I believe he did this to settle gambling debts and simply got himself in more difficulty," McGrath said.
Lau's stepmother said Lau lives on his own and works full time as a dishwasher.
"I want to apologize, first of all to the owner," Lau said in court. "I've learned from this mistake."
Loo denied Lau's request for a chance to keep the convictions off his record.
* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.