Judge delays murder sentencing
Raising questions about plea agreements, a federal judge delayed sentencing two men for a brazen daytime shooting that killed two and wounded one at Pali Golf Course in 2004.
Kevin A. Gonsalves and Ethan Motta were to be sentenced by Judge Susan Oki Mollway yesterday for murder, attempted murder and other charges in connection with the shootings.
The two defendants pleaded guilty Feb. 11. According to their plea agreements, the government agreed to seek prison sentences of no more than 330 months or 27-and-a-half years each in exchange for their guilty pleas.
Murder carries a mandatory life prison term. And in the federal system, there is no parole.
But Mollway said a mere guilty plea does not qualify as the "substantial assistance" required to qualify for a sentence shorter than life in prison.
Mollway said the government's request was bare-boned and provided no detail of the defendants' assistance other than their guilty pleas.
She said unless the government can provide more detail of the defendants' assistance or, in Gonsalves' case, require more action from him, she is inclined to reject the government's request for sentences shorter than life in prison. That would void the plea agreements, and if the defendants then withdraw their guilty pleas, Mollway said, she will have to put their cases back on the calendar for trial.
Gonsalves' lawyer Clifford Hunt and Motta's lawyer Todd Eddins asked Mollway for time to research the issue. She rescheduled their sentencing hearings to July 24.
Mollway is scheduled Monday to sentence a third defendant, Rodney Joseph Jr., who also pleaded guilty to murder and racketeering.
Mollway sentenced a fourth defendant, Kai Ming Wang, to the 27 months he has already been in custody for conspiring to operate an illegal gambling operation. The Pali Golf Course shooting was the result of a fight between the defendants and their victims over the job of protecting Wang's gambling operation.
Immigration and Naturalization Service officials immediately took Wang into custody for deportation. His lawyer, William Harrison, said the INS found him guilty of marriage fraud and ordered him deported.