Eric House, left, Henri "Hank" Hendricks, Orlando Osuna and Matthew Yanke listened as Judge John Einhorn addressed them yesterday in San Diego. The four San Diego men have been sentenced to between 90 and 349 days in jail for their roles in the beating death of Kauai-born professional surfer Emery Kauanui last year.
4 men sentenced in surfer’s killing
A judge assigns prison terms ranging from 90 to 349 days for their roles in a fatal attack
SAN DIEGO » Four former high school friends were sentenced to between 90 and 349 days in jail yesterday for their roles in the fatal beating of Kauai-born professional surfer Emery Kauanui, far less time than prosecutors sought.
Superior Court Judge John Einhorn said he considered their past clean records and lack of evidence that any of them delivered the fatal blow, even as he chastised them for spreading fear in the upscale seaside community of La Jolla with alcohol-tinged fights.
"You don't have to be a criminal street gang to be a bunch of bullies that together think they're stronger, tougher, smarter and can get away with murder," the judge said at the sentencing for all but one defendant in the case.
Seth Cravens, alleged to be the ringleader, has pleaded not guilty to murder and faces trial Oct. 14.
A bar argument in 2007 ended in a showdown that left Kauanui, 24, bleeding outside his mother's home. Hospitalized with severe head trauma, he died three days later after being taken off life support.
Kauanui's mother tearfully told the judge she lost the love of her life.
"All I can tell you is that I love him so much, and it's just not the same," said Cindy Kauanui. "Our family is broken."
The single parent of three left the courtroom before the judge read the sentences.
Nigel Kauanui spoke of how his brother encouraged him to become a musician. The surfer's girlfriend of six years, Jennifer Grosso, said losing him was a "lifetime sentence."
"I lost the love of my life, a soul mate and someone I was planning to spend the rest of my life with," Grosso said.
After the showing of a video of Kauanui riding the waves and enjoying times with his family, the judge ordered the defendants to turn and face a packed courtroom.
"Look who've you let down and don't ever forget it," he said.
Kauanui was raised on Kauai, but he moved to California with his mother and brothers in 1992 after Hurricane Iniki. Nicknamed the "Flying Hawaiian," Kauanui was a fixture at San Diego's Windansea Beach, just a few blocks from his house, where his favorite surf break is now called "Emery's Left." Kauanui often spent winters in the islands visiting family, including his father, Emery Sr., who still lives on the Garden Isle.
The five defendants, who had been buddies since attending La Jolla High School, were initially charged with murder, but Eric House, 21, Orlando Osuna, 23, and Matthew Yanke, 22, pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter. Osuna and Yanke also pleaded guilty in June to unrelated counts of misdemeanor battery.
Another defendant, Henri "Hank" Hendricks, 22, pleaded guilty to a felony of being an accessory to the death, and an unrelated misdemeanor battery.
Osuna was sentenced to 349 days in San Diego County jail; House and Yanke each got 210 days; and Hendricks got 90 days. Each got various amounts of credit for time already served and was given three years' probation.
The judge said he was "taking a chance" on them to turn around their lives. "Nobody wins, guys," he told the defendants before they were led to jail.
Prosecutor Sophia Roach had urged the judge to sentence Osuna to 4 1/2 years in state prison, House to four years, Yanke to 3 1/2 years and Hendricks to one year in county jail.