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Suspect to turn witness


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POSTED: Friday, February 27, 2009

A teenager facing attempted first- and second-degree murder charges in a freeway shooting last year has agreed to be a prosecution witness in a home-invasion robbery that happened a month later in which a man was shot and paralyzed from the waist down, a federal prosecutor said yesterday.

The teenager is 19-year-old Joshua Gonda.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Florence Nakakuni made the disclosure during Gonda's sentencing hearing yesterday in federal court for selling methamphetamine within 1,000 feet of Kalihi Uka Elementary School in June and July 2007.

U.S. District Judge David Ezra sentenced Gonda to one year and one day in prison, followed by six years' probation.

Federal authorities arrested Gonda on Nov. 13, 2007, on the drug charges.

On July 9, while on pretrial release, Honolulu police say, Gonda fired six shots from a revolver at a car of a rival gang member on Moanalua Freeway. One shot hit a 16-year-old boy, paralyzing him from the chest down.

Gonda is scheduled to go to trial for the attempted murder and firearm charges in state court in May.

The home-invasion robbery happened Aug. 11 in Aliamanu. During the robbery, Timothy Lapitan, 19 at the time, rushed the robbers and pushed them out of the house, prosecutors say. He was shot once in the torso, which paralyzed him from the waist down.

An Oahu grand jury charged Nicholas Nichols, 18, with attempted second-degree murder. He and three other teenage boys and one teenage girl also face robbery, kidnapping, burglary and firearm charges. Their trial in state court is scheduled for August.

Nakakuni said Gonda did not witness the crimes, but has information about them.

The Honolulu prosecutor's office declined comment.

Honolulu police identified Gonda, Nichols and other teens as members of the Outlaws gang responsible for other crimes.

Gonda's lawyer in the federal case says Gonda and his sister grew up in a shelter because the state took custody of them after their mother got involved in drug abuse.