By JOHN BURNETT
Tribune-Herald staff writer
A former Keaukaha Elementary School special education teacher whose sentence on a methamphetamine conviction was overturned on appeal has been re-sentenced to 10 years in prison.
On Wednesday, Hilo Circuit Judge Greg Nakamura ordered that 56-year-old Lynn Marie Dionise serve the state term after she’s finished serving a five-year federal sentence for conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine.
The state Intermediate Court of Appeals in October ruled that Hilo Circuit Judge Glenn Hara failed to “state on the record at the time of sentencing the reasons for imposing a consecutive sentence.”
“Therefore, we vacate the consecutive portion of Dionise’s sentence and remand her for re-sentencing before another judge,” the opinion stated.
Dionise, who is serving her federal sentence at a prison in San Bernardino, Calif., was arrested on April 29, 2008, after police armed with a search warrant found 6.8 grams of crystal methamphetamine, or “ice,” a small amount of marijuana and $13,245 in cash in her Keaukaha condominium.
She addressed the court and talked about the 3 1/2 years she’s been incarcerated.
“During that time, I’ve completed and benefited from 27 classes and/or programs, and this far exceeds the amount of recommended programming from (the Federal Bureau of Prisons),” Dionise said. “I’ve also held jobs that required the respect and trust of the supervisors.” She added that she’s been “discipline-free” while incarcerated, which she said proves that she can comply with the law. She added that she’s taken drug-treatment programs and is participating in Narcotics Anonymous.
“But my biggest change, your Honor, is my internal change. I’m not the same person,” she said. “I was a drug addict. I’m not that person anymore.”
Dionise’s scheduled release date from federal custody is May 27, 2014, but her attorney, Keith Shigetomi, said it’s likely she’ll be released earlier, “in about five or six months.”
While passing judgment, Nakamura gave his reasons for ordering a prison term consecutive to Dionise’s federal term.
“It may be true that in many respects you may have lived a pro-social lifestyle prior to these events of criminal conduct. You were an educator and worked as a special education teacher. On the other hand, at the time of sentencing, back then and now, you were already convicted in federal court for the offense of conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute 50 grams or more of methamphetamine,” he said.
Nakamura said he didn’t buy the claim Dionise made in her pre-sentencing report that the drugs found in her apartment were for personal use, noting that an informant had bought drugs from her and the money used for the purchase was part of the cash found in a safe in her condo.
“Miss Dionise, if it’s true what you say about what changes you’ve undergone and what you’ve achieved in the federal prison system, then I think that’s something you need to report to the Hawaii Paroling Authority,” the judge said. “My sentence is based not on what you have achieved in the federal system, but based on what I saw in the pre-sentence report and the statement of facts that were existing at that time.”
Email John Burnett at firstname.lastname@example.org.