By JOHN BURNETT
Tribune-Herald staff writer
A 73-year-old Hawaiian Beaches man who shot a Panaewa woman four times on Mother’s Day 2012 after she had broken off a relationship with him has taken a plea deal almost three weeks into his attempted murder trial.
Joseph Amormino Sr., a retired Hawaii Community Correctional Center guard, pleaded guilty Thursday to first-degree assault, use of a firearm in the commission of a felony and two counts of terroristic threatening. The charges stem from the May 13, 2012, shooting of June Shirshac, a 57-year-old greeter at the Hilo Walmart store, and a road rage incident on Highway 130 as Amormino drove from Hawaiian Beaches to the Auwae Road home where Shirshac lives.
Numerous other charges, including attempted first-degree murder and two counts of attempted second-degree murder, were dropped in exchange for Amormino’s plea, and prosecutors have agreed to seek a maximum sentence of 25 years for all charges combined. If convicted on the attempted first-degree murder charge, Amormino would have faced a mandatory life sentence without the possibility of parole.
Sentencing is scheduled for Nov. 21 at 8 a.m. before Hilo Circuit Judge Glenn Hara. Although both probation and parole are possibilities, it appears likely that Amormino will spend the rest of his life behind bars.
When Hara asked Amormino to briefly describe the events that resulted in the charges he pleaded to, Amormino’s lawyer, Deputy Public Defender Michael Ebesugawa, asked the judge for a bench conference. Afterward, the judge asked Deputy Prosecutor Mike Kagami to state the evidence supporting the charges.
“Mr. Amormino, while driving on the Keaau-Pahoa highway, threatened three members of the (Samson) Peneku family with a firearm while driving on that highway,” Kagami said. “He then drove to the residence of June Shirshac and Francis Makaiwi, where he shot June Shirshac four times, resulting in serious bodily injury to her. He also intentionally shot approximately four to five rounds into the bedroom door of Francis Makaiwi when he (Makaiwi) was within the bedroom in a bathroom area.”
Shirshac sustained gunshot wounds to both legs, and to her right hand and shoulder. She was hospitalized for approximately four months and has undergone numerous surgeries — the latest, she testified, on Aug. 19. She testified in court while sitting in a wheelchair.
Makaiwi, an ex-husband of Shirshac, was uninjured in the shooting.
Shirshac testified that Amormino arrived at the home owned by Makaiwi at about 5:30 p.m. the evening of the shooting, brandishing a handgun as he got out of his pickup truck. She said that Amormino repeatedly said “you’re not effing leaving me” before shooting her and attempting, unsuccessfully, to shoot Makaiwi.
Amormino’s defense was that despite the shooting, there was no intention to kill Shirshac or Makaiwi.
On the witness stand, she admitted to a conviction for felony embezzlement. She also testified that Amormino gave her credit cards, $15,000 in cash that he had borrowed using his pickup truck as collateral, and an engagement ring that she wore — even though she had no intention of marrying him.
She said she backed out of an offer to marry Amormino in Las Vegas because he showed up “reeking from liquor.” She added that she wore the ring to make him happy and that he became upset when he saw her without it.
A few members of Amormino’s family were in the gallery for the change of plea, including Joseph Amormino Jr., who testified in a preliminary hearing on May 18, 2012, that his father stopped by Amormino Jr.’s house in Hawaiian Beaches before driving to Panaewa. He said that his dad was angry and smelled of alcohol.
“He mentioned June and the money that she owed him,” Amormino Jr. said during the prelim. “She said she didn’t have it and something to the effect of ‘what are you going to do about it?’ That kind of thing.”
Amormino Jr. said his father then told Shirshac: “I’ll tell you what I’m going to do. I’ll take out your leg, and then your other leg. And then your shoulder, and then your other shoulder.”
Amormino Jr. testified that he thought the line was from “The Godfather,” so he didn’t take it seriously at the time.
He and other family members declined to comment after Thursday’s hearing.
Kagami said afterwards that the plea deal was one that had been offered prior to trial and described it as “a reasonable outcome.”
Email John Burnett at firstname.lastname@example.org.