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Jurors unsure who caused crash


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POSTED: Saturday, October 04, 2008

Iovani Alatini hugged his wife, Lise Solomua-Alatini, for several minutes outside a state courtroom yesterday after a judge declared a mistrial in his second-degree assault trial.

The jurors told Circuit Judge Dexter Del Rosario they were unable to reach a verdict after a day and a half of deliberation.

Alatini is accused of causing a traffic crash on the H-1 freeway airport viaduct Jan. 18, 2007, in which his wife lost her left arm.

Deputy Prosecutor Jeen Hee Kwak said she intends to retry the case in front of a new jury.

"This was a case of domestic violence," Kwak said. "We

cannot stop pursuing these perpetrators of domestic violence, because it has to stop."

Alatini's lawyer, Marcus Landsberg, said this was not domestic violence and that intends to ask the judge to dismiss the case.

"During this whole time period, real victims of domestic violence will have their cases go un-prosecuted or un-investigated because the state is putting all of its money and

resources behind this case," he said.

During trial a paramedic testified that at the crash site Solomua-Alatini told him her husband kicked the steering wheel of the sport utility vehicle as she was driving. Solomua-Alatini's uncle testified Alatini told him the same thing at the hospital.

And the jurors heard a taped interview in which Alatini told a Honolulu police detective he kicked the steering wheel because he was angry.

But both husband and wife testified the kick is not what caused the accident. Solomua-Alatini said she took her eyes off the road to hit her husband as they were arguing. She also admitted speeding, driving recklessly and drinking while driving.

Landsberg said Solomua-Alatini's blood-alcohol content was 0.15. It is unlawful for anyone with a 0.08 blood-alcohol content to operate a vehicle. Drivers with 0.15 blood-alcohol content qualify as highly intoxicated, making them eligible for greater penalties.

A Honolulu Police Department traffic investigations supervisor said the physical evidence suggests the driver hit the brakes and then turned the steering wheel, causing the SUV to flip airborne before hitting the concrete median. The SUV bounced back across the lanes of traffic on its side and hit the outside barrier before coming to a stop.