Drug sentence shatters model son's history
Growing up in West Oahu, Akoni Sandoval Kapihe defied the socioeconomic stereotypes that dogged many native Hawaiians.
He juggled after-school jobs and football practice, graduated from Waianae High School after four years of catching the bus from the family home in Ewa Beach, married his high school sweetheart and earned a five-year football scholarship to the University of Hawaii. His life revolved around football and work.
That all changed when his first son was born during his freshman year, and all Kapihe wanted to do was be with his family. He dropped out of college after getting a job as a corrections officer at the federal detention center.
Then he came under federal investigation for smuggling drugs into the facility.
Chief U.S. District Judge Helen Gillmor sentenced Kapihe yesterday to 33 months in federal prison, noting that he had cooperated and provided assistance to federal agents.
But she said Kapihe's conduct not only had jeopardized the safety of corrections officers and inmates, but erodes confidence in corrections officers and in law enforcement.
While Kapihe and his wife, Lehua, made an emotional plea for leniency, Gillmor said it was not realistic to think that he would serve no prison time for violating the public's trust. "Society would be outraged" had he not been sent to prison, Gillmor said.
Kapihe pleaded guilty last December to providing a prohibited object to an inmate in a federal prison. Specifically, he admitted to getting paid $50 on each of four occasions of smuggling crystal methamphetamine and marijuana hidden in protein supplement containers given to him by the family members of inmates.
After serving his 33 months, Kapihe will be placed on three years of supervised release.
Two inmates who arranged for family members to get the containers to Kapihe will be sentenced later this month.