WAILUKU - A Kihei man arrested in a police crackdown on illegal narcotics sales at Kalama Park was released from jail Friday after being incarcerated for nearly three months after being caught selling four narcotic pills.
Justin Ohler, 20, also was placed on five years' probation as part of his sentence.
"Justin has got himself into an amazing amount of trouble over four pills," said Deputy Public Defender William "Pili" McGrath.
JUSTIN OHLER, released from jail Friday
Ohler was the youngest of six people arrested in "Operation Kill Pill," run by the police Crime Reduction Unit last year to target the illegal sales of prescription pills and other narcotics at the Kihei park, said Deputy Prosecutor Tracy Jones.
She said the pill dealing at a wall at the park "was the number one quality of life complaint on the island."
"And he was participating in it," she said. "He was sitting on the wall in the middle of the day counting and hiding the drugs under his shirt, and he engaged in drug dealing."
Jones said Ohler sold four oxycodone pills to officer Matthew Bigoss on Sept. 26, 2011.
Ohler had pleaded no contest to a reduced charge of third-degree promotion of a dangerous drug and to promoting a controlled substance in a public park.
After being indicted and arraigned in the case this year, Ohler was released on supervision in July. But in August, he was arrested for violating conditions of his release by not keeping in contact with the Maui Intake Service Center, using drugs or alcohol and missing a drug test.
Ohler missed the drug test because he was working in Kula, McGrath said.
Because of his juvenile record, Ohler didn't qualify for a chance to keep the latest convictions off his record, McGrath said. But after spending nearly three months at the Maui Community Correctional Center, Ohler views the time he served for nonviolent offenses at the Hawaii Youth Correctional Facility on Oahu as "more or less a country club setting," McGrath said.
At the Wailuku jail, Ohler has been housed in "coffinlike rooms designed for one or two people that have three people in them," McGrath said.
"He's willing to go to drug treatment," McGrath said. "It's either this chance or no chance. I don't believe he's going to be dangerous to the community."
Ohler said the time in jail made him realize what he did was wrong. Once released, he said he wanted to go home to his family, start working with his father and enter drug treatment.
If she were as creative as former 2nd Circuit Judge Boyd Mossman - who gave some nonviolent offenders the option of holding roadside signs describing their crimes instead of going to jail - 2nd Circuit Judge Rhonda Loo said she would have Ohler stand in Kalama Park "with a big sign on your chest saying, 'Look at me, I'm a drug dealer, I push pills.' "
"You're the perfectly bad example of what can go wrong," Loo told Ohler. "Was it worth it to sell four pills for 85 days in jail?"
"No, ma'am, it wasn't," Ohler said.
"I hope you got a good taste of jail," Loo told Ohler. "Because 85 days is the least you're going to do if you come back to court."
Both the judge and Jones mentioned Ohler's tattoos, including a marijuana leaf and "mob."
"The mentality of the messages he's covered his body with are pretty anti-social," Jones said.
Ohler said he got the tattoos when he was 15 "so I didn't really know what I was doing at the time."
As part of his probation, Ohler was ordered not to consume alcohol or illegal drugs.
Cases are pending against others arrested in the undercover operation, including the main targets, brothers Frank Stone and Clarence Stone.
* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.