Term cut for convicted murderer
One of two men serving life terms without parole for the slaying of an Army helicopter pilot nearly nine years ago was resentenced Thursday to 25 years in federal prison.
Roberto Miguel was one of two men convicted of murder in December 2000 for the June 1998 shooting that killed Chief Warrant Officer John Latchum at a Waianae Recreation Center beachside cabin. Miguel, then 17, was accused of firing the fatal shot.
Those convictions were overturned by the 9th U.S. Circuit of Appeals, which found the trial judge should have allowed the defense to argue that another man in their group who was at the shooting was the shooter.
Under a plea agreement accepted by Chief U.S. Judge Helen Gillmor on Thursday, Miguel pleaded guilty to murder and possession of a firearm. He must also serve five years' probation and pay a mandatory restitution of $979,699 to Latchum's widow, Wendy.
Miguel did not address the court, but "he has quite a bit of regret and remorse for what happened," said federal public defender Peter Wolff yesterday.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Ron Johnson could not be reached for comment.
The plea agreement reached in December noted that the parties wanted to avoid the uncertainties of a retrial, including the availability and credibility of certain witnesses and the reduced recollection by witnesses eight years after the incident.
Miguel was one of six men and boys who went to the area popularly known as "Rest Camp" with the intent of "arming" or committing robbery, according to the plea agreement. Miguel admitted to carrying a sawed-off rifle in his pants.
Three in the group, including Miguel, attempted to break into the cabin occupied by the Latchums and were chased off the deck by John Latchum, who came out, shouting at them to go away.
Miguel admitted that he acted recklessly when he pointed the rifle at Latchum and fired a single shot. Latchum died of a single gunshot to the chest.
Miguel admitted that he and a juvenile in the group disassembled the rifle and buried it. The juvenile cooperated with authorities and led them to the rifle pieces. The firearm was examined and tested and determined to be the weapon used in the shooting after it was compared with the bullet recovered from Latchum's body.
After hearing a news report of the shooting, Miguel told the juvenile that he had "killed the guy," meaning Latchum. Miguel turned himself in to authorities and, upon questioning, admitted firing the shot but said it was accidental.
The government dropped the murder charge against the second man convicted in the case, Bryson Jose, who pleaded to attempted robbery and possessing the rifle. At his June 1 sentencing, Jose is expected to also receive a 25-year term.