By JOHN BURNETT
Tribune-Herald staff writer
A 34-year-old Hilo man has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for what the prosecutor in the case called “a horrible and dangerous combination of drugs, guns and violence.”
Hilo Circuit Judge Glenn Hara on Thursday handed down the sentence to Caylan Kauiki Ua, who pleaded guilty on May 13 to being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition, second-degree assault, second-degree promotion of a harmful drug, third-degree promotion of a dangerous drug, possessing drug paraphernalia and interfering with the report of an emergency. The 10-year prison term is the maximum allowed for the two most serious offenses, the firearms and harmful drug charges — the former for a semi-automatic assault rifle, and the latter, possession of a pharmaceutical sedative without a prescription.
According to court documents filed by police, Ua’s then-live-in girlfriend, Trena Leopoldino, suffered a fracture to her right eye socket on March 11 after an argument with Ua turned violent. The altercation occurred in the upper Kaumana home the couple shared after Leopoldino told Ua she was ending the relationship and requested that he leave the house, documents state.
Prosecutors asked the judge to revoke Ua’s bail after he missed a Feb. 13 court date on the drug and firearms charges, but Hara denied the motion. Deputy Prosecutor Jason Skier said that allowed Ua to be free when the assault occurred.
“The state tried to file a warrant for his arrest. The court did not sign that warrant,” Skier said. “The court gave him the benefit of the doubt and kept him out in the community. And how does he repay the court, judge? He repays the court by going and committing … the violent offenses. The only reason he was out, judge, was the grace of the court in not signing the warrant.”
Kay Iopa, Ua’s court-appointed attorney, argued for probation, citing Ua’s “large, supportive family,” a number of whom were in the courtroom. She said the charges stem from “situations Mr. Ua found himself in because his substance abuse problem and as a result of that, that spun into his family situation.”
“Mr. Ua recognizes that he has a substantial substance abuse issue that needs to be addressed,” Iopa said. “Mr. Ua is not asserting that society owes him but he recognizes that until he gets into a substance abuse program and gets his problem under control, he’s not going to be any benefit to himself, to his family or to society.”
Skier argued for a prison term, calling Ua a “powder keg waiting to erupt.” He said Ua’s criminal history “has been basically unabated since 1995 except for his period of incarceration.”
“He admits … that he was dealing drugs to support his habit,” Skier said. “So basically, we’ve got a violent drug dealer who has a history of guns, not only in this case, but in his prior cases. … There is basically a reason we need prisons in this community, and unfortunately, Mr. Ua is one of those people.”
Ua addressed the court and asked the judge for another chance “to prove to myself I can make it.”
“It was me under the influence,” Ua said. “That’s why I made the choices that I made. I recognize the problem is the drug use. … But sending me to prison, honestly, I no like to go back. I been dea; I know how it is. … I want another chance to be here for my family, not only for myself.”
Hara said he was imposing the sentence due to the danger Ua poses to the community.
“I’ve seen so many people like you come in and say, ‘I had to distribute drugs to support my habit.’ That’s how drugs get distributed,” he said. “For the most part, it’s not the guys with the gold chains and Corvettes and pretty girls on their arms that are distributing drugs. It’s the drug users on the streets.
“What disturbs me more in this particular case, is that you were (also) dealing weapons. And I know for a fact you have a felony record. You cannot have any kind of legal firearms license, so all this was being done illegally. The firearms were probably illegal as well — illegal or stolen and unregistered, because there were no permits to acquire, no registration done on the transfer of those weapons. And now we’ve got these unregistered weapons in the hands of people we don’t know about.”
As the shackled Ua was escorted from the courtroom by sheriff’s deputies, his young son said: “Bye, Daddy.”
Replied Ua: “I love you, son.”
Email John Burnett at email@example.com.