GARY KUBOTA / GKUBOTA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Lillian Koller, left, drug court program coordinator, and Maui Circuit Court Judge Shackley Raffetto, right, gave Jesse Nakooka, 27, a Maui Drug Court certificate for completing the program yesterday.
WAILUKU >> A Maui Circuit Court judge praised a former drug addict for helping to rescue two women from high surf a week ago.
Maui savior finishes
Jesse Nakooka gets compliments
for his big-surf rescue
By Gary T. Kubota
"That was pretty brave," Judge Shackley Raffetto said to Jesse Nakooka.
"You were in the right place when they needed you, and your head was clear."
Nakooka, 27, graduated yesterday from a Maui Drug Court treatment program.
He said the Maui Drug Court program provided the biggest change in his life and opened his eyes about his addiction.
"They gave me an opportunity to find love in my heart," he said.
Nakooka and his friend Keli Everett were going surfing in waters off the Keanae peninsula last Friday when they noticed a crowd of about 20 people screaming and saw two women trying to get ashore in 12-foot waves.
The women, 24, from Arizona, had been taking pictures when they were swept out by a rogue wave.
Nakooka and Everett used their surfboards and a rope to bring the women back to shore.
The rescue was in the vicinity of where four visitors died nearly five years ago after they were swept out by waves.
Nakooka said while he was a drug addict, he was caught breaking into a tourist's car and was probably going to prison for a probation violation.
Instead, he got a break from the Maui Drug Court and entered its treatment program.
Besides Nakooka, 18 other people graduated yesterday from the program, which lasts from 12 to 15 months.
The program, funded by the state and county, provides rehabilitation for drug users who have committed nonviolent crimes.
In the two years the program has been in effect, only three of the 58 graduates have been rearrested, and four drug-free babies have been born to women in the program, according to court statistics.
County of Maui
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