Wednesday, October 10, 2001

Kalihi auto hijacker
gets 20 years in prison

The 20-year-old man also pleaded
guilty to 3 counts of robbery

By Debra Barayuga

One of four male suspects who went on a crime spree that included terrorizing people and breaking into cars from Kalihi to Kailua to Pearl City a year ago has been sentenced to 20 years in prison under a plea agreement.

Lelauti Sakaria, 20, of Kalihi, was sentenced yesterday after pleading guilty to three counts of first-degree robbery and kidnapping. He apologized yesterday to the court and to the victims, saying he took full responsibility for his actions.

Circuit Judge Michael Town ordered Sakaria to pay restitution of $2,000 and said he hoped Sakaria's religious values and supportive family will help him through his incarceration.

Sakaria and three others terrorized individuals at three locations beginning at the Kalihi Jack-in-the-Box drive-thru, where they assaulted a motorist and hijacked his car, said Deputy Prosecutor Wayne Tashima.

Sakaria got into the passenger side of the car and sat on a female sitting there. One of the men told her she was coming with them.

The woman's boyfriend managed to pull her out before the men drove away in his car. Also at the Jack-in-the-Box, one of the male suspects broke into a car by bashing in the window, police said.

The four drove to the Kailua 7-Eleven where Sakaria threatened a store clerk with a sharp instrument and stole her purse, authorities said.

They then drove to Chevron in Pearl City to fill up with gas. One of the other men was attempting to purchase $4 worth of gas when Sakaria displayed a sharp instrument and demanded money from the clerk, authorities said. The clerk managed to lock them out and call for help.

Glenn Choy, Sakaria's attorney, said his client is very remorseful.

Sakaria had a promising future after graduating from high school in California where he was an outstanding volleyball and football player, Choy said. He was headed to college but when his family moved to Hawaii, he lost much of the guidance he had from family members in California, he said.

Sakaria was invited to drink with the others that night and its unclear who came up with the plan to do the hijacking, Choy said.

A panel of doctors who examined Sakaria unanimously found he suffered from alcohol dependency, which may have contributed to his conduct.

Family Court waived jurisdiction over two of the juveniles with Sakaria clearing the way for them to be tried as adults.

John Vito Talo was sentenced as a youthful offender to eight years imprisonment. The case of Dustie Liupaono is still pending.

The other adult, Jason Deere is expected to go to trial next week.

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