Legislator skirts jail for DUI charge
Jon Karamatsu is sentenced to community service and fined $750
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State Rep. Jon Riki Karamatsu's 33rd birthday yesterday was memorable for all the wrong reasons.
The state House vice speaker was in court to plead no contest to drunken driving on Oct. 17, when he crashed his car on Moanalua Freeway and his blood-alcohol level was more than twice the legal limit.
He was sentenced to community service but avoided the two days in jail that prosecutors had recommended.
Karamatsu (D, Waikele-Waipahu) acknowledged his mistake and reiterated his earlier apology to the public.
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House Vice Speaker Jon Riki Karamatsu avoided jail time on a drunken-driving charge stemming from his arrest in October in which police said his blood-alcohol content level was more than twice the legal limit.
Prosecutors had sought at least 48 hours of jail time because of the circumstances surrounding his arrest.
District Judge William Cardwell imposed a sentence of 72 hours of community service and a $750 fine, saying he hoped Karamatsu -- a first-time offender -- would understand the gravity of the situation.
"You need to understand how dangerous it is and how dangerous you were," Cardwell said.
Karamatsu (D, Waikele-Waipahu) also must attend 14 hours of substance abuse counseling. His license already has been suspended for six months.
After initially pleading not guilty two months ago, Karamatsu changed his plea to no contest at his court appearance yesterday, saying he wanted to accept full responsibility for his actions. Cardwell accepted the plea and found him guilty.
"I was willing to accept any punishment," Karamatsu said after court. "I feel really badly about my mistake.
"I've apologized in the past, and I continue to feel the same."
Deputy Prosecutor Jennifer Sugita asked Cardwell to impose jail time, noting that Karamatsu's blood-alcohol level of 0.17 percent was well above the 0.08 percent legal threshold when he crashed his car Oct. 17, and that he appeared highly intoxicated to police officers at the time he was arrested.
"At least we got 72 hours of community service work and a $750 fine," she said. "So every hour of that community service work he's doing, he's going to be thinking about what caused that community service work to take place."
Karamatsu had said he attended a work-related function the night of the incident and took the wheel after having a few drinks.
Yesterday, he said he could not remember exactly how much he drank.
"I don't have an alcohol problem, but I do admit that that night I made a mistake," he said. "I thought I was fine but clearly I wasn't."
He added that he has taken steps to educate himself and others on the dangers of drunken driving and that he will continue to work hard for his district knowing that he faces re-election in November.
Karamatsu, who turned 33 yesterday, submitted his resignation from the vice speaker post after his arrest, but the resignation was not formally accepted.
Speaker Calvin Say has said the issue of leadership will be addressed when the 2008 Legislature convenes next month. It also would be up to the chamber to determine any discipline.