Kauai boy gets 5 years for attack
The teen maintains he wielded a machete to scare his teacher
LIHUE » A 16-year-old former Kauai High School student will likely be spending most of his teen years in prison with adults, after being sentenced to five years' imprisonment for a machete attack on his teacher last year.
Andrew Sarita, who was 15 at the time of the attack last November, faced 15 years in jail after pleading guilty in August to first-degree attempted assault and second-degree criminal property damage.
Instead, Circuit Judge Kathleen Watanabe decided sentencing Sarita as a youthful offender was more appropriate. Sarita has been incarcerated since his arrest. He also was to make restitution of $246 for his teacher's medical costs.
Sarita, a large boy over 6 feet tall and 200 pounds, said he was just trying to scare his teacher, Timothy O'Rourke.
"I didn't go to school to hurt him ... I went to scare him," Sarita said. "I was full of mixed messages, upset ... medication (and marijuana) made me spin out."
Sarita, his lawyer, John Calma, and family members contend that O'Rourke had continually picked on the boy. In an altercation two weeks previous to the incident, O'Rourke struck the boy, Calma said, after months of being "labeled, denigrated, and taunted."
"He was at home, stewing" for a week after the first incident, Calma added. "He went to confront Mr. O'Rourke. He acted like a child, and now he's being treated like an adult."
O'Rourke, who was not in court, has said the earlier incident was self-defense, after Sarita threatened to stab him in the neck with a pencil.
Judge Watanabe said Sarita was wrong to come to a classroom with a machete and swing it at his teacher, before hacking O'Rourke's truck. It was not the impulsive actions of a child as described by Calma, she said.
"The behavior you exhibited and the trauma you inflicted on the family is very serious," Watanabe said. "No matter how you look at it, you were clearly wrong."
Deputy County Prosecutor Ken Norelli contended that, had it not been for O'Rourke's actions, the incident would have been far worse.
"If not for Mr. O'Rourke's ability to defend himself, he would be dead," Norelli said. "It was a vicious attack with a machete, an attempt on Mr. O'Rourke's life. He did not instigate that attack."
A Family Court judge waived jurisdiction in June, allowing prosecutors to charge Sarita as an adult. He was originally charged with attempted murder.