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Man accused in pedestrian’s death freed

<p>HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald</p><p>Siaiku L. Aholelei exits the courtroom after appearing in Hilo District Court on Monday afternoon.</p>


Tribune-Herald staff writer

A 27-year-old Mountain View man accused of manslaughter and negligent homicide in a traffic collision that left a bicyclist dead had his bail reduced in court Monday due to a paperwork snafu on the manslaughter charge, and he was set free as a result.

Bail for Siaiku Lucky Aholelei was dropped from $275,000 to $25,000 because District Judge Barbara Takase didn’t receive the probable cause affidavit — also known as a Riverside affidavit — on the manslaughter charge, in time for Aholelei’s initial court appearance.

Aholelei posted bail and was released from custody after Monday’s hearing, according to an official at Hawaii Community Correctional Center.

Aholelei is charged with manslaughter and first-degree negligent homicide for a collision in Keaau shortly before noon on Friday that killed 66-year-old Cenon Visaya of Keaau. Police said Aholelei was driving a pickup truck at a high rate of speed and traveling south on Volcano Highway (Highway 11) near the entrance to Kamehameha Schools-Hawaii when he lost control, crossed an undivided median and two northbound lanes of traffic and slammed into Visaya, who was riding his bike north on the road’s shoulder.

Visaya died at the scene.

Deputy Public Defender Jennifer Ng asked for “supervised release, or in the alternative, we’d ask that the court consider reducing the bail to $100,000.”

Deputy Prosecutor Roland Kaholo Talon asked the judge to maintain bail of $275,000 based on Aholelei’s criminal history.

“Defendant is a convicted felon, and interestingly, he was convicted for assault in the second degree on Nov. 13, 2008, (and sentenced to) five years in prison. He obviously was paroled and this incident occurred, your Honor,” Talon said. “Also, he has a felony conviction for bail jumping in the first degree. That’s from November 2008.” Talon added that Aholelei also has six contempt of court convictions, as well as a conviction for failure to appear.

Takase ruled to maintain Aholelei’s bail and asked Talon for the Riverside affidavits.

After Talon approached with the paperwork, the judge said, “There’s only one.”

“That’s the only one I was given by staff,” Talon replied. “… We did notify police.”

“Bail is confirmed at $25,000 for the negligent homicide charge. I have no judicial determination of probable cause for the second (manslaughter) charge,” Takase said.

Talon said afterward that the manslaughter charge is still in effect.

Aholelei, who appeared in court in custody, was ordered to return to court today at 2 p.m. for a preliminary hearing. According to court records, he was also convicted of DUI and reckless driving in 2008, and has three speeding convictions since 2011.

County Prosecutor Mitch Roth said Monday afternoon that his office will likely ask the judge to re-impose bail on the manslaughter charge at today’s hearing.

“We’re still trying to figure out what happened, if we got the Riverside or if we didn’t. I’m still investigating that,” he said.

Asked if it was the responsibility of police or prosecutors to ensure the judge receives probable cause affidavits, Roth replied: “It’s a combination of both.”

Court documents list the registered owner of the black 2004 Dodge pickup truck allegedly driven by Aholelei as Pono’s Used Cars. Pono’s owner, Eric Trautman, said Monday that Aholelei had bought the truck two weeks earlier and was to have completed transferring paperwork on the vehicle on Friday afternoon, but the transfer didn’t occur due to the fatal crash.

Roth said that Aholelei may be the first driver in the state to be charged with negligent homicide of a “vulnerable user” — a cyclist or pedestrian who is vulnerable and in the right-of-way. Roth said the vulnerable user designation is part of an amendment to the negligent homicide statutes signed into law by Gov. Neil Abercrombie in 2012.

Visaya’s wife, 61-year-old Josefina Visaya, was also killed in a traffic collision a little more than a year ago. She was one of two women killed, along with 54-year-old Patrocinia Cadang of Keaau, when the van they were riding in was sideswiped and knocked down a 15-foot embankment by a pickup truck attempting to pass them on Mamalahoa Highway (Highway 19) near Kalopa. That crash also injured the other six people in the van, three critically.

The driver of the pickup truck in the Kalopa crash, 31-year-old Alfred Berdon III of Honokaa, was arrested on suspicion of two counts of negligent homicide, four counts of negligent injury, DUI and driving with a suspended license and without insurance. He was later released pending investigation and, to date, has not been charged.

Roth said that his office is “close” to seeking a grand jury indictment of Berdon, who was sentenced to a year in jail in December for violating his probation for an unrelated road rage incident in 2007.

Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiitribune-herald.com.


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