Regretful killer getsBy Debra Barayuga
An ex-gang member who pleaded guilty to assault for shooting a man in Wahiawa in February 1997 wants to get on with his life, says his defense attorney.
Circuit Judge Victoria Marks yesterday sentenced Ropati Tauiliili, 21, to 15 years in prison for the death of Robert Morris, 23, who was shot during a confrontation outside an Ohai Place apartment.
Tauiliili was facing a third trial because of jury misconduct at his second trial in March 1998, in which the jury found him guilty of the lesser charge of manslaughter. He would have faced 20 years to life. Jurors were deadlocked in his first trial.
Rather than risk facing life imprisonment,Tauiliili agreed to plead guilty to a lesser charge of first-degree assault, first-degree terroristic threatening and a firearms charge, said deputy public defender William Bagasol.
The court imposed a mandatory minimum of five years on the assault charge and three years on the terroristic threatening charge because a firearm was used.
Tauiliili has been incarcerated for the past two years, Bagasol said. The parole board will decide the minimum term he must serve.
The ex-gang member from Waipahu was believed to be turning his life around when he was arrested for second-degree murder, a week before he was to testify at a youth forum in Washington, D.C.
Tauiliili testified and continues to maintain that he was never there at the time of the shooting. He did say, however, that he and his brother were drinking at the scene of the shooting the night before and had left fingerprints on a beer bottle they left behind.
Bagasol said Tauiliili had an A average at Heald College and was doing well in the Work Hawaii program, which helps at-risk youths, when the incident occurred. "He definitely regrets what happened."
Deputy Prosecutor Maurice Arrisgado said the plea agreement was the best resolution for the state.
"Sometimes you have to resolve a case without achieving a full sense of justice," he said. "Unfortunately in this case, we weren't able to find a jury to convict him of murder or a court to sustain a conviction of manslaughter."