A Mountain View man who committed a brazen daylight knifepoint carjacking last year has been sentenced to eight years in prison.
Hilo Circuit Judge Glenn Hara on Tuesday sentenced Alkapone Cruz-Balles under the so-called “young adult defendant” statute, which applies to felony defendants less than 22 who have not been previously convicted of a felony as an adult or adjudicated as a juvenile for an offense that would be a felony if tried as an adult.
Cruz-Balles, who was 19 when the carjacking occurred, pleaded guilty on Nov. 18 to first-degree robbery, a Class A felony punishable by up to 20 years imprisonment. In exchange for his plea, prosecutors dropped an auto theft charge.
Cruz-Balles accosted Alexander Guimaraes, then 24, a student at the University of Hawaii at Hilo College of Pharmacy, in the Hilo Target store parking lot during the early evening of July 17. He took the victim’s 2013 Hyundai Sonata at knifepoint after Guimaraes loaded his groceries into the trunk.
He fled the scene and later picked up his girlfriend, identified in court documents as a 14-year-old Hawaiian Beaches girl, at Luquin’s Mexican Restaurant in Pahoa, where she was eating dinner with her family.
Cruz-Balles then drove to Isaac Hale Beach Park in Pohoiki, where officers spotted the car and arrested him.
Guimaraes addressed the court and said he came from New Mexico to Hawaii for pharmacy school so he could “experience paradise.”
“My experience here has been anything but that,” Guimaraes told the judge. “… Every time I get into the car to go somewhere, I still remember that day.”
Guimaraes said he can still see “the scary, evil eyes of my attacker as he held a knife against my side.” He added that he sought mental health counseling for anxiety and depression and “the attack on my life has greatly altered my life.”
“I still have a fear of going to any store for fear of being attacked as a result of this incident against my life,” he said.
He urged the court to sentence Cruz-Balles to the maximum 20 years.
“The next victim could be your grandmother or your loved one,” he said.
Cruz-Balles attorney, Deputy Public Defender Jeff Ng, said Cruz-Balles had “no prior convictions as an adult or juvenile” and argued for the eight-year sentence. He said Cruz-Balles “was high on pills and marijuana” when the carjacking occurred and he realizes what he did “was dumb and regretful.”
“Mr. Cruz-Balles is not a bad person. He just did something very terrible on July 17, 2013, and he must pay the price,” Ng said. “The price should be eight years as a young adult defendant, not the 20 years.”
Ng added that Cruz-Balles was “able to hold down a job at Subway for almost a year.”
He also said his client had considered changing his given name.
“It’s not his fault that he was named Alkapone,” Ng said.
Deputy Prosecutor Darien Nagata argued that Cruz-Balles should be sentenced to 20 years, saying the defendant “preyed on the victim” because he thought Guimaraes “looked easy.”
“It’s not about the defendant’s name. It’s about the defendant’s attitude and actions,” she said. “The defendant chose to pull out a knife and threaten the victim with it, then stole his car, then smoked marijuana in it, and basically totalled the car. The defendant put the victim and the community in danger.”Cruz-Balles addressed the court before he was sentenced and expressed remorse for what he did.
“I’d just like to say I’m very sorry for my actions. I take full responsibility for it. And I want to say to Alexander Guimaraes that I’m very sorry for what I did to you that day,” he said.
Hara told Cruz-Balles that saying he “voluntarily ingested the drugs” and they made him do something he ordinarily wouldn’t is “not a defense.”
“I’m concluding, Mr. Cruz-Balles, that once you get through the drugs, and you stay away from drugs, that it’s not your basic nature to do these kinds of violent acts,” the judge said. “The fact that you did that, however, is what the court needs to address today.”
Guimaraes said afterward he is “getting better” and is “satisfied” with the court’s sentence.
“Any time in prison is a victory for me and I appreciate the apology,” he said.
Email John Burnett at firstname.lastname@example.org.