Wednesday, August 18, 1999

City & County of Honolulu

accident account
differs from witnesses

A witness says the Council
chairman's version of events
is 'a baldfaced lie'

By Gordon Y.K. Pang


City Council Chairman Jon Yoshimura last week pleaded no contest to the charge of leaving the scene of an accident July 13.

He was fined $35 for violating the state traffic code requiring motorists to stop after striking an unattended vehicle. The violation carries a maximum fine of $100 or 10 days in jail.

But his account of that early morning accident differs from that of three witnesses in police reports.

Police say that at 12:45 a.m., Yoshimura got into his parked 1996 Mercedes Benz on Auahi Street, fronting Ward Centre. He then made a U-turn and struck a parked, unoccupied Nissan Pathfinder.

Yoshimura told reporters he thought he had collided with a utility pole and then continued to his Ward Avenue condominium, about a mile away.

"I made a mistake," Yoshimura said last night, noting that it was raining. "I should have made a more thorough investigation into what I had hit, but I thought I had hit something other than a car."

Witness Glen Odum said he was standing and facing two of his friends who were sitting on a bench in front of X-cel Swimsuits and just behind the parked Pathfinder. Odum said the driver of the Mercedes could not have missed seeing the damage to the Pathfinder.

"That's a baldfaced lie," Odum said, referring to Yoshimura's comment that he believed he hit a utility pole.

Jack Ravenlock, one of those with Odum that night, said: "Not even a blind man would mistake that car for a pole. He moved (the Pathfinder) about four feet."

Odum said the Mercedes stopped long enough for them to take down the car's license plate.

The car then sped off, ran a red light at the intersection of Auahi and Kamakee Street, and turned right on Ward Avenue, Odum said.

With the license plate number from witnesses, police located the Mercedes at Ward and Green Street at 2 a.m. They then issued Yoshimura a traffic citation for fleeing the scene of an accident.

Yoshimura said he was working late at KHON Channel 2, where he is program director, which is also on Auahi Street.

Odum and Ravenlock told police that they first saw a man get out of another Mercedes and into the one involved in the accident.

The only reason they noticed, Odum said, was that there was loud music from the first Mercedes. "They sounded like they were having a good time," Odum said.

In the police report, all three witnesses said they saw Yoshimura's Mercedes "fishtail," or make "S-like" turns, several times before hitting the Pathfinder.

Odum said he and his friends work in Ward area coffee shops and gather after work sometimes to talk. Before the incident, he said, none of them knew what Yoshimura looked like, although he had heard his name before.

The whole incident, Odum said, "was like something out of a movie."

Yoshimura said all the public needs to know is in the filed police report and court proceedings. "I don't know why there is a difference in my recollection and other people's recollection."

The incident was a minor accident, he said, adding that the cost of repairs to both cars were under $3,000 total.

Police spokeswoman Michele Yu said Yoshimura was not given special treatment.

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