Kauai man gets 6 years for assaults in the water
LIHUE » A Circuit Court judge sentenced a surfer to six years in prison yesterday for surf rage assaults, including an attack on a bodyboarder last year that caused a wound over the man's eye that showed his orbital bone.
Solomon Nakolomona Fernandez Jr., 25, apologized for his actions in two "surf rage" attacks, but Judge Kathleen Watanabe, ignoring prosecutors' request for only a year in jail, sentenced him to the maximum term "to protect people and the community at large."
Fernandez, of Koloa, pleaded guilty in November to two assaults, one misdemeanor -- punishable by a year in jail -- and one felony, which is punishable by five years in prison. Both involved other wave riders on Kauai's South Shore.
In the September 2004 felony assault charge, Fernandez and bodyboarder Steven Veillette were surfing a beginner's wave, called Waiohai, that fronts the Marriott Waiohai Beach Resort in Poipu.
According to Veillette, he was unable to get out of Fernandez's way as Fernandez longboarded a small wave. Fernandez's longboard and Veillette's bodyboard bumped, causing no damage, but that was enough to set Fernandez off.
"I never said a word," Veillette said yesterday in court. "He jumped me from the side."
As Veillette tried to protect himself, Fernandez, 25, of Koloa, jumped off his board and stood on the reef as he pummeled him, called him a "haole" and told Veillette he was going to kill him, Veillette said outside the courtroom.
Veillette, who finally got to the beach, suffered four broken teeth and a gash next to his eye that opened to the bone and required 15 stitches to close. There is still a scar.
Fernandez, Veillette said, returned to the surf lineup and continued to surf for another half-hour with his father. He was arrested a few hours later.
After the arrest, the avid bodyboarder was forced to change jobs because Fernandez would show up at the restaurant where he worked and harass him, Veillette said, and surfing became a chore, not an enjoyment.
"When I went back out into the water," the bodyboarder said, "I was always looking over my shoulder."
Veillette said he was fed up and was going to stand up for all the surfers on the South Shore.
"I did it more for everybody else," he added. "It didn't benefit me, except maybe karma-wise."
Yesterday, Fernandez apologized for his actions, saying, "I try to (handle) things on my own."
Fernandez's lawyer, public defender John Calma, said the fight was mutual and that Fernandez's teeth were injured in the fray as well.
As for the other misdemeanor assault, Calma said Fernandez spotted surfboards that were stolen from a friend. He took them back and backhanded the victim across the head.
"He thought he was justified," said Calma. "He took justice into his own hands."
Prosecutors had proposed a plea bargain, seeking only a year in jail and five years' probation, as well as more than $8,000 in restitution to Veillette for his medical bills.
But Judge Watanabe said that the violent outbursts, an earlier probation violation, a prior sentence to anger management that was ignored, and problems with other inmates in jail led to the maximum sentence, and a year for the misdemeanor charge.
Veillette, meanwhile, said he has been surfing the South Shore since Fernandez has been in jail, but he still gets "stink eye" and nasty comments from Fernandez's friends.
As Veillette talked to reporters outside the courtroom, Fernandez's girlfriend walked by and called him a "f--ing kook" under her breath.