By JOHN BURNETT
Tribune-Herald staff writer
A 19-year-old Hilo man who threatened security officers at Kamehameha Schools-Hawaii Campus and committed several other offenses has been sentenced to a year in jail and five years probation.
Hilo Circuit Judge Greg Nakamura took six months of Jeremy Costa’s jail sentence under advisement and gave him credit for time already served, so Costa’s remaining jail time will be a little more than a month, provided he steers clear of trouble while on probation.
Costa will be allowed to serve his sentence on weekends, to allow him to seek employment. Full-time employment or enrollment in school is also a condition of probation, and Costa’s attorney, Ivan Van Leer, said his client is taking placement tests to enroll in school in April.
In a deal with prosecutors, Costa pleaded no contest to first- and second-degree terroristic threatening, second-degree burglary and two counts of custodial interference. Costa could have received a five-year prison term for the most serious charge, first-degree terroristic threatening.
Costa, who had been expelled from Kamehameha, tried to enter the school’s Keaau campus twice in October 2011. On Oct. 24, he was reportedly intercepted by security and turned away.
That night, he allegedly posted threats on Facebook aimed at school security, including “rent a cops must die.” The posts also referred to the 2007 Virginia Tech campus massacre.
He was also arrested the following morning at the corner of Kilauea Avenue and Haihai Street while trying to hitch a ride to the school. He was dressed in a school uniform shirt and was carrying books. Police said that when confronted by officers, Costa tore off the shirt and challenged them to fight.
Kamehameha Schools was granted a permanent injunction to keep Costa away from the campus and from school functions on or off campus.
He had also been arrested numerous times after the Kamehameha Schools incident, including for threats against two police officers, Capt. Randall Medeiros and Officer Gabriel Wilson. Medeiros and Wilson were on a list of people the judge ordered Costa not to harass or threaten, as was the school’s security chief, Morton Carter. Nakamura also ordered him to not enter Kamehameha’s campus.
When reached by phone afterward, Carter referred the Tribune-Herald to Kamehameha spokesman Kekoa Paulsen, who declined to comment.
Deputy Prosecutor Jason Skier asked the court to order Costa serve his remaining jail time in one stint, describing Costa as “basically a one-man crime wave” and pointing out that he’d be through with jail before he starts school in April.
“I hope Mr. Costa understands how favorable this plea agreement was that the state is not standing here asking for prison right now, because the state would have a very strong argument for prison,” Skier said. “I think Mr. Costa also needs to understand that if the court does follow the plea agreement, and he does get probation today, this is basically his one shot at probation. He’s gonna be under a microscope the entire time he’s on probation. And if there’s even the slightest violation, the state does intend to file to revoke.”
Van Leer said Costa has “been diagnosed with bipolar disorder,” is now “medication compliant” and that jail was “a horrible experience for him.” He described his client’s behavior as “adolescent (and) childlike” and that he is “a worthwhile candidate for probation.”
“Mr. Costa has learned his lesson; he’s paid for his outburst,” Van Leer said. “Mr. Costa is just 19 years old. Most of this stuff happened just after his 18th birthday. He was in 11th grade in Kamehameha when all this stuff began, and Kamehameha put him out of the school. That was apparently the straw that set this emotional swing off. All of these incidences arise from the moment that Kamehameha threw him out of the school. It was a strong emotional moment for him. It derailed him for a goodly period of time and set him off on his bipolar excursions, which all these crimes are related to.”
Costa was subdued and mostly silent throughout the hearing, and opted not to address the court regarding his sentence. When the judge asked what he had learned, Costa replied: “I learned not to disrespect the law, and I learned that medication is very important.”
Afterward, outside the courtroom, Costa’s mother complained loudly to Van Leer that Skier’s description of her son was “a cheap shot,” and that Costa shouldn’t be returned to Hawaii Community Correctional Center.
“I don’t want him in that jail one more minute with those killers,” she said.
Email John Burnett at firstname.lastname@example.org.