By JOHN BURNETT
Tribune-Herald staff writer
A 24-year-old Hilo woman who robbed a downtown clothing store at gunpoint in January was sentenced Monday to 10 years in prison.
Tia Nohealani Menino pleaded guilty in October to second-degree robbery and illegal place to keep a pistol. She also pleaded guilty to several misdemeanor and petty misdemeanor charges. All sentences will run concurrently and Menino will be given credit for time already served. In exchange for her plea, prosecutors dropped charges of first-degree robbery and use of a firearm in the commission of a felony, both Class A felonies punishable by up to 20 years in prison.
Menino robbed Rainbow-Jo women’s clothing boutique and Tiny Bubbles baby clothing boutique on Jan. 31 at about 11:50 a.m. The stores are separate businesses with different owners at the same location, 291 Keawe St.
The store clerk, Rachel Conder, told police a woman entered the store alone, walked up to a cash register, threw a purse onto the glass counter, brandished a handgun and demanded all the money from Rainbow-Jo’s cash register. Conder said she took $137 from the cash register and gave the money to the woman. Conder reported the woman then demanded money from Conder’s purse behind the counter and “wanted to know who she was.” Conder gave her $20 from her purse. She reportedly refused to give Menino her name but handed her another $100 from Tiny Bubbles’ cash register.
Conder took a cell phone photo of the pickup truck Menino was driving as she turned right from Furneaux Lane onto Keawe Street, and got the truck’s license plate number. She also later identified Menino from a photo lineup, court documents state.
Menino was arrested about a half-hour later on Makaala Street in Hilo. An unloaded .22-caliber revolver was in plain sight in the pickup truck. Menino told police she “just did something stupid” because “she owed her boyfriend money,” according to documents.
Deputy Prosecutor Shannon Kagawa told the court that Conder was traumatized by the robbery and quit her job at the boutique shortly afterwards.
Menino wiped away tears during sentencing. She addressed the court, but most of what she said was barely audible and could not be understood from the courtroom gallery. Hilo Circuit Judge Greg Nakamura told Menino he couldn’t hear her and asked her to repeat part of her statement.
“I apologize to the victim and I apologize to the state,” she replied. “I will follow through with whatever consequences the state gives me.”
Menino’s mother was in the courtroom but declined to comment afterward.
Kagawa said afterward the state “is satisfied” with the sentence “based on the plea agreement.”
“Miss Menino made a very bad mistake in this case,” she said. “However, the community is safer based on the fact that the court sentenced her to 10 years in prison.”
Menino’s court-appointed attorney, Kanani Laubach, said she believes the sentence “is the best deal the state would give us with the charges and evidence that Tia was facing.”
“Now it’s up to the parole board to set what the minimum (amount of time to be served) is. So I’m gonna go (to Honolulu) and ask them to set a low minimum,” she said.
Laubach said she believes Menino will turn her life around after her release from prison.
“She’s a good girl. In high school she was an all-star athlete and she got good grades. She has some college and she has family support.”
Email John Burnett at firstname.lastname@example.org.