By JOHN BURNETT
Tribune-Herald staff writer
A 21-year-old Waimea man pleaded guilty to manslaughter and intimidating a witness on Tuesday, during the second day of jury selection for his manslaughter trial.
Sentencing for Waylen Keone Carenio is set for Oct. 23 at 1 p.m. before Hilo Circuit Judge Glenn Hara.
Carenio faces a possible 20-year prison sentence for manslaughter, while intimidating a witness carries a potential five-year sentence.
Carenio was involved in a fight outside Karma Hawaii sports bar in Hilo with 44-year-old Roy Williams of Hilo in the early morning hours of Dec. 3. Williams died the following day in The Queen’s Medical Center in Honolulu. Witnesses told police that Williams had been in a fight with another man, later identified as Carenio, and that Williams had fallen and struck his head on the pavement.
Carenio’s court-appointed attorney, Vaughan Winborne Jr. of Waimea, said that a ruling last week by Hara allowing information from Carenio’s witness intimidation case to be heard at his manslaughter trial was the primary reason for Carenio’s guilty plea. Winborne had attempted to have the information excluded from the trial.
“It was a far better case for the state than the manslaughter case,” Winborne said. “When the judge determined that the information from that case was admissible, that complicated it. … And what I was afraid of and, what I believe, Mr. Carenio came to be afraid of was that the jury would not be able to make the distinction between whether Mr. Carenio is a bad guy or not or whether Mr. Carenio was guilty was manslaughter or not.
“There were other problems for the state as far as the manslaughter case and whether Mr. Carenio’s actions were the direct cause of Mr. Williams’ death. Apparently, Mr. Williams had a high level of alcohol in his system. Apparently, Mr. Williams had diabetes. … According to the evidence, he had a lot of problems. It may have been that those problems contributed as much (to Williams’ death) as Mr. Carenio’s actions. It was not clear that Mr. Carenio would be found guilty, except when you add in what I call this ‘bad guy’ evidence.”
Williams’ sister, Caring Leyson, told the Tribune-Herald in December that her brother had Type 1 diabetes and had undergone three eye surgeries.
“My brother was only 44, but he was in bad health. His health wasn’t great,” she said at the time.
Carenio was later charged with intimidating a witness to the fight. The victim, 21-year-old Clyde Lewis of Hilo, told police that Carenio drove up to him in the parking lot of Coqui’s Hideaway restaurant and sports bar in Hilo shortly before midnight on Feb. 1 and that he got into the car. Lewis reportedly said that once he was inside the vehicle a second man, identified by police as Carenio’s half-brother, 25-year-old Turner Kaimana Au of Hilo, restrained him, and both Carenio and Au assaulted him.
Au pleaded guilty to kidnapping in the case earlier this month, and was sentenced by Hara to 10 years in prison.
“… What he (Carenio) said in court today when he pled to intimidating a witness is that he thought this guy, Clyde Lewis, was lying about him and that’s what he was upset about. That’s what he said when he pled guilty. That’s quite different from ‘I want to prevent this guy from testifying because I’m guilty and I’m worried that he’s gonna say something truthful about me.’”
In an email on Tuesday, Deputy Prosecutor Mike Kagami said the state will seek a 20-year prison term for Carenio, who has competed as an amateur in both mixed martial arts and surfing. Kagami did not return a phone call on Tuesday afternoon seeking further comment.
“The state can ask for any legal sentence and we can ask for any legal sentence,” Winborne said. “The judge can’t sentence him to more than 20 years.”
Carenio, who has no prior felony convictions, could be sentenced to probation, although Winborne believes it’s more likely that Carenio could be sentenced as a”young adult defendant” — a law that allows a judge to sentence a defendant younger than 22 with no prior felony convictions to eight years in prison on a Class A felony charge, which carries a maximum 20-year term.
We think that Mr. Carenio … is a good candidate to be sentenced as a young adult defendant,” Winborne said, adding that Carenio “has done a lot of growing up” in jail.
Carenio is in custody without bail at Hawaii Community Correctional Center.
Email John Burnett at firstname.lastname@example.org.