A 32-year-old Kona man was sentenced Tuesday in Hilo Circuit Court to 10 years in prison for his role in a Puna home invasion last year.
Jack Vaughn pleaded guilty March 7 to first-degree burglary, second-degree robbery and two counts of third-degree assault. He and two other men, all wearing masks, reportedly pulled onto the Hawaiian Paradise Park property of Claudine Prados in a pickup truck July 12 and attacked Prados, her 9-year-old son and the boy’s father, Clayton Mahi.
Prados was struck numerous times in the head and was backed into a set of jalousie windows, cutting her hand. Mahi suffered a broken left eye socket, and the boy sustained lacerations to a forearm and shin. One of the men also allegedly kicked in the door of a neighbor, Tina Machado-Kong, and entered her home.
A co-defendant, 32-year-old Dustin Jose of Kona, has a trial date of July 14 before Hilo Circuit Judge Glenn Hara. The alleged third assailant has not been identified or arrested.
Prados fought back, trying to protect her son by hitting one assailant over the head several times with a meat cleaver. She followed the men — who took her purse and checkbook and a backpack with her son’s clothes — outside, and threw a can of pork-and-beans at the truck as it left. The can landed in the truck bed and police found it when they pulled the vehicle over later that night in Kurtistown and arrested Vaughn and Jose.
Bill Heflin, Vaughn’s court-appointed attorney, said his client is a former combat Marine who served two tours of duty in Iraq and suffered a traumatic brain injury from two encounters with improvised explosive devices. He added in his eight years as a criminal defense lawyer, Vaughn is only the second client to plead guilty to felony charges without a plea deal.
“I think the first thing my client would like to do is apologize to the complaining witnesses in this case,” Heflin said. “He’s kind of surprised that they aren’t here today.”
Heflin argued for probation with a jail sentence of 18 months or less and said Vaughn has been “forthcoming about his involvement in this and took responsibility” for his actions.
“Frankly, my client agrees that jail or prison is warranted … but I think an 18-month sentence is a strong message to the community, especially if it’s coupled with ‘we’re willing to give you a chance; we’re willing to give you probation if you take responsibility,’” he said. “And there are a million people out there who commit crimes and never take responsibility.”
Heflin said prosecutors offered his client a deal for probation if he would turn in the third masked suspect, but Vaughn didn’t do so out of fear of the individual, whom Heflin described as “the mastermind.”
Deputy Prosecutor Jack Matsukawa argued for a 10-year prison term, calling home invasion “one of the worst type of crimes that can happen to a home owner.”
“In this case, a little kid was at home,” he said. “He did not expect a person to break into his house, breaking this person’s face, Mr. Mahi, attacking him and … his mother. This kind of crime needs to be punished. The emotional scars, I submit to the court, is gonna take a very, very long time to get rid of.”
Vaughn told the court he’s been “real depressed” and apologized to the absent victims “for invading their house 10 months ago.”
“Since then, I’ve been living … my own kind of prison sentence,” he said. “I traumatized their life; I’ve gotta live with that. I’m still livin’ with it and tryin’ to do the right thing.”
Hara noted Vaughn had led a “predominately pro-social life” and said considering aggravating and mitigating factors made it “a difficult case to impose a sentence.”
“Entering someone else’s home when it is occupied, especially to commit a crime, is very dangerous, for the perpetrator as well,” the judge said. “You, yourself, were threatened with a knife.”
“Yes, your Honor,” Vaughn said.
“And that was in an effort to do what?”
“To protect herself,” Vaughn replied.
“And her child. And her home,” the judge added.
Hara said Vaughn “destroyed the myth we all have that our home is our castle” for the victims and described the crime as “almost like a military operation.”
“The objective was to obtain money — by force, if necessary,” he said. “Most of your objectives were accomplished, except for the money.”
Email John Burnett at firstname.lastname@example.org.