Hit-run driver is sentenced
A man gets five years' probation in a 2004 incident where he hit a former police chief
THE HIT-AND-RUN driver who struck former Honolulu police Chief Michael Nakamura in a Mililani crosswalk was sentenced yesterday to five years' probation.
Anthony G. Pearce, 21, had pleaded no contest in August to fleeing the scene of an accident and driving without a license in the Sept. 29, 2004, incident on Lanikuhana Avenue.
Pearce was facing a maximum of 10 years in prison but was asking the court to defer his plea, enabling him to eventually remove the matter from his record.
Circuit Judge Derrick Chan rejected Pearce's request, noting that he should not have been driving at all that day, and the fact that he eventually returned to turn himself in "did nothing for the victim lying on the roadway."
Chan noted that Pearce had four prior driving-without-a-license violations, including an arrest five days before the Nakamura incident. This "shows that you lack respect for the law," the judge said.
He said he could not find that Pearce is likely to lead a law-abiding life and not re-offend. "The message that needs to be sent in this case is that you should never flee the scene (of an accident)," Chan said.
Defense attorney Victor Bakke had argued that Pearce is a good candidate for a plea deferral and is not likely to re-offend.
Pearce earned his GED and has been working as a painter, supporting a 3-year-old son, Bakke said.
Deputy prosecutor Kevin Takata recommended five years' probation and did not seek jail time because Pearce did return to the scene later and took responsibility, and also because Nakamura had not requested it.
But Takata asked that Pearce pay restitution in the amount of $4,647 for Nakamura's loss in earnings and to help replace the motorized scooter the former chief was riding when he was struck. Nakamura stepped down as chief in 1997 partly because he suffers from a degenerative neuromuscular condition that forces him to use a motorized scooter.
Pearce apologized in court to Nakamura and his family, saying he thinks about them every day.
"At the accident, I was scared, didn't know what to do. I didn't think; I just reacted," he said.
As soon as he calmed down, Pearce said, he returned to see how he could help and later visited Nakamura in the hospital.
By taking responsibility, Pearce said, he hopes to bring closure to Nakamura and his family.
Nakamura suffered a stroke as a result of the surgery he underwent and is more dependent on others to care for him.
Nakamura, who was not present at yesterday's sentencing, said later that he did not want Pearce to go to prison.
"We actually forgave him for anything he did to us. As Christians we're supposed to forgive," he said. "I think the issue that's more important for the community to realize is that people shouldn't be operating a vehicle without insurance and a license.
"If anything, I hope he turns his life around," he said.
In addition to restitution, Pearce was also ordered to serve 250 hours of community service, pay $500 each to a neurotrauma fund and the Crime Victims Compensation Commission and write a letter of apology to the Nakamuras.