Hijacker’s confession shortens term
In the end, it wasn't only 10 years in prison that Ricky Kenui got for the two times in his life that he broke the law.
It's the person he became afterward and what he did to better himself that mattered even more.
"I feel that everyone makes mistakes and it is up to the person to choose how to deal with it," he wrote in a letter to be submitted to Honolulu's two daily newspapers as part of a plea agreement.
Two and a half years after he hijacked a Dolphin Excursions tour van with visitors still inside at Kahe Point, Kenui, 38, has turned his life around -- a change that hasn't gone unnoticed by the state and the courts.
Circuit Judge Karl Sakamoto sentenced Kenui yesterday to 10 years in prison for the hijacking, in which he ordered the occupants of the van to get out at knifepoint, and a car break-in a week later. Sakamoto's comments indicated he recognized the efforts Kenui underwent to become rehabilitated.
Kenui was initially facing a 20-year term. But under a plea agreement, the state allowed Kenui to plead guilty to a reduced charge of second-degree robbery in exchange for writing a public letter to the daily newspapers to explain what led an employed family man with no prior criminal history to become involved with crystal methamphetamine.
"It's a cautionary tale for someone who wants to try 'ice' even just once," said Deputy Prosecutor Kory Young. "It takes only one hit and you find yourself sliding down a very slippery slope."
Homeless, desperate and addicted to ice, Kenui came to a turning point with his arrest.
Just five months earlier, Kenui was busy supporting a wife and five children. He had never been in trouble with the law -- not even a traffic ticket, said Deputy Public Defender Theresa Marshall.
But as things do for so many families going through the daily stresses of life, of making a living and keeping his family together, things became so overwhelming that he didn't know how to cope.
He ended up on the streets homeless, he turned to drugs, and then his life began spiraling out of control, he said in his letter.
In the weeks before he broke into the tour van, he was feeling hopeless, confused and unworthy, and had allowed the drugs to control him, he said.
During the 14 months in prison after his arrest, Kenui said he had time to think about his conduct and the people he had hurt. He reconnected with his faith and worked in the prison. He was released from prison to attend a nine-month inpatient drug treatment program, which he successfully completed.
He went back to work and became a model employee, winning an employee award. He continued to attend substance abuse support meetings weekly, committed himself to being sober and reunited with his family.