By PETER SUR
Tribune-Herald staff writer
A District Court judge found probable cause to send a Hawaiian Beaches man arrested in a Mother’s Day shooting in Panaewa to Circuit Court.
After hearing arguments in a preliminary hearing Monday afternoon, Judge Harry Freitas agreed with a deputy prosecuting attorney that Joseph Amormino Sr., a retired adult corrections officer for Hawaii Community Correctional Center, should be sent to the higher court.
His next appearance was scheduled for 8:30 a.m. July 19 before Judge Hara’s courtroom.
Amormino stands accused of first-degree attempted murder, two counts of second-degree attempted murder, burglary, use of a firearm in the commission of a felony, three other firearms offenses and three counts of terroristic threatening. He was present for the hearing but did not speak.
Deputy Public Defender Michael Ebesugawa did not dispute that his client shot his ex-girlfriend four times, but he argued Amormino never intended to kill June Shirsac.
Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Cody Frenz disagreed, and recapped the two days of witness testimony from a two-day preliminary hearing that started in May. The court heard no additional testimony from witnesses Monday.
Witness testimony in the May preliminary hearings established that the dispute between Shirsac and Amormino began a couple days before the shooting, when the two got into a fight on a return flight to Honolulu from Atlanta.
Frenz reminded the judge about the defendant’s son, Joseph Amormino Jr., who had testified in May that an inebriated and irate Joseph Sr. drove to his son’s home in Hawaiian Beaches, ranted about Shirsac and said, “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.”
The son, recognizing that as a quote from “The Godfather,” didn’t think much of it.
The elder Amormino then drove to Panaewa; along the way he allegedly tailgated and waved a pistol at a family of three before overtaking them on the right side, drawing the terroristic threatening charges.
Prosecutors allege that Amormino shot Shirsac in the left shoulder, left knee, right thigh and right hand, then kicked her in the stomach. Amormino is then said to have shot at a bedroom door behind which Makaiwi was hiding, and then called 911. Makaiwi was not injured.
“The state has submitted more than probable cause in the witness and hearsay testimony,” Frenz said.
Ebesugawa said that Amormino’s choice to avoid shooting Shirsac’s vital organs, and the lack of injury to Makaiwi, indicated that he did not intend to kill them.
The defense attorney recalled Amormino’s statements at the time of the shooting that “You’re not going to die. I just don’t want you to walk any more,” and “Are you OK? Are you OK? You’re not going to die.”
“Had Mr. Amormino intended to complete the killing, he had ample opportunity to do so, but did not,” Ebesugawa said, adding, “the lack of a life-threatening injury must be considered by the court.”
Frenz rejected Ebesugawa’s statement that Shirsac’s survival meant he should not be charged with attempted murder. Had Shirsac died, Frenz said, the charge would be “murder, instead of attempted murder.”
As for the question of Amormino’s intent, “This is a question for the jury. What he intended to do is a question for the jury,” Frenz said. The judge agreed.
Email Peter Sur at firstname.lastname@example.org.