Judge upholds prison term in deadly DUI
The convict's prior offenses help justify a 10-year sentence
A state judge has reaffirmed the 10-year prison sentence for a Waianae man convicted of driving while intoxicated and negligently causing the death of a pedestrian.
Circuit Judge Virginia Crandall cited Dewayne Asuega's prior DUI conviction and a speeding citation just five days before he plowed into Marcus Chong, killing him.
"This is being a menace on the road and putting people's lives at risk," said Crandall, who could have also placed Asuega on probation.
Asuega, 28, who pleaded no contest in April 2006 to first-degree negligent homicide, was ordered to serve a minimum term of eight out of 10 years by the Hawaii Paroling Authority. He came before the court yesterday requesting that Crandall reconsider the 10-year term.
Defense attorney David Hayakawa said Asuega has done everything right since the incident to take responsibility, starting with pleading to the charge. He has undergone substance abuse treatment, continued working and earned the praise of all his former employers who are ready to rehire him once he gets out of prison.
Asuega apologized to the Chong family, saying it was never his intention to harm anyone, much less kill anyone that day. He said he is a changed man and pleaded for a second chance so he can continue working and supporting his family. He vowed that he would never squander his freedom again.
Deputy Prosecutor Darrell Wong said the court's ruling was supported by the Paroling Authority's decision to impose an eight-year minimum. "They could have set it less, but they found it to be serious enough to warrant a higher than lower minimum," he said.
The term imposed served not only as a deterrent, but also as punishment.
Chong was walking on the shoulder of Farrington Highway in Waianae on Jan. 8, 2005, when he was struck.
His older sister, Laura McShane, expressed relief that the judge did not reconsider her earlier ruling.
"He needs to learn that drinking and driving kills, which is what he did," McShane said.
"No matter how sorry you are, the point is you did it -- so, take responsibility."
She said she and other family members are outraged that certain members of Asuega's family who were overcome by emotion after the hearing lashed out verbally at the Chong family, as though blaming them for the judge's decision.
Deputy sheriffs had to be summoned after a young family member threw down his crutches and had to be restrained from confronting the Chong family, who said later that they felt threatened because of his words and conduct.
As Asuega's sentencing in July, his father and family members in a cultural gesture had knelt down and asked forgiveness from the Chong family for what their son had done.
Eight years is a small price for Asuega to pay for taking someone else's life, said McShane. "He still has his family, has food and shelter. Marcus is gone forever. We're never going to see him again."