Two of five hikers
Three others from theBy Debra Barayuga
to be tried
Five men face in excess of $8,000 in costs for hiking into a Hauula valley that had been closed due to hazardous conditions and ended up having a member of their party rescued.
The actual amount that will be assessed and the hikers' ability to pay will be decided at an Aug. 13 hearing at Kaneohe District Court.
"My main concern is the state gets its money back," said Deputy Prosecutor Guy Matsunaga.
Restitution was just one part of a sentence imposed on two of the hikers who pleaded no contest yesterday to entering a prohibited area.
The violation carries a maximum penalty of 30 days in jail and a $500 fine.
District Judge Christopher P. McKenzie also ordered Adrian Aiu, 25, of Salt Lake and Roy Brewer, 25, of Laie to perform 15 hours of community service in lieu of a $75 fine.
The court also agreed to defer acceptance of their no contest plea, meaning the conviction will be erased from their records provided they stay arrest- and conviction-free for the next six months.
Both have no prior convictions.
Brewer chose to plead no contest to the charge because he wants to take responsibility for his actions and for the damage he and his friends caused, said his attorney Tae Kim.
The two men, along with three mainland friends, ignored a sign at the Maakua Gulch trail and hiked into an an area that was closed to the public because of possible unsafe conditions.
A landslide a week earlier at nearby Sacred Falls killed eight people and injured 50 more. Both sites share similar geologic conditions.
Zachary Billings, 30, of Phoenix had to be airlifted out of the valley by a Fire Department helicopter after breaking his leg. Rescue personnel from other state and city agencies were also involved.
Sixty days after the accident, both trails remain closed to the public while state and federal officials and University of Hawaii geologists assess the areas by ground and air, said Deborah Ward, spokeswoman for the state Department of Land and Natural Resources.
Maakua Trail could be reopened in the near future, Ward said. Rescue agencies will meet with Land Department officials this month to discuss ways to make rescues in Maakua more efficient and less hazardous.
Billings and his two brothers, Robert 22, and Benjamin, 28, of Salt Lake City have been issued summons by mail to appear before the court.
If they receive the summons but don't respond, a bench warrant for their arrests could be issued, Matsunaga said.
While only one of the five needed to be rescued, somebody still has to pay, Matsunaga said.
If for some reason they are unable to reimburse the state, he said he hoped each of them could work it off by performing community service.
Deputy public defender Todd Watanabe, who represented Aiu, characterized Aiu and Brewer as "good kids" who exhibited bad timing by entering the Hauula trail soon after the May 9 tragedy at Sacred Falls.
Brewer earlier said they were confused by one sign saying the trail was open and another that said it was closed.
He said he didn't feel they would be in any danger since he had hiked the trail before.
Matsunaga said Aiu and Brewer were local residents and should have known better.
The judge was trying to be fair in allowing them to perform community service in lieu of a fine, Watanabe said. "If he wanted to make an example of them, he would have upped that."
Matsunaga said he will ask that Aiu and Brewer perform community service at a park so that the state will benefit.