Wednesday, December 19, 2001

UH student gets probation
for assault with golf ball

By Debra Barayuga

A former University of Hawaii student was sentenced to five years' probation for hitting a golf ball into Rainbow Wahine Softball Stadium that struck and injured a star Iolani School softball player during the state championship semifinals in February.

Daniel Copperud, 20, was convicted earlier this year in a jury-waived trial of second-degree assault, a felony, but avoided a jail term of at least six months that prosecutors had sought.

At sentencing yesterday, Judge Karl Sakamoto cited Copperud's exemplary school record, his employment, past work in the community and his potential to contribute to society.

"It's ironic -- you injured a promising and outstanding citizen, and yet before me is a promising and outstanding citizen," Sakamoto said. "This court will not turn away from that fact."

Sakamoto said while Copperud's "act of stupidity" harmed Amy Taniguchi, her family, Iolani School and the community, he believed the probation office's report that Copperud did not intend to harm anyone.

Copperud faced Taniguchi and her family yesterday and apologized repeatedly for the "pain and shock and suffering" he has caused them.

Deputy prosecutor Wayne Tashima said Copperud's apology doesn't change the fact that his actions altered the life of an innocent person.

He added that he did not believe Copperud had expressed genuine remorse and that a one-sentence apology in an interview with the probation office showed it.

Copperud said he thought it was cool to hit a golf ball into the stadium from his dormitory to see people's reaction, Tashima said. Copperud apparently admitted to also hitting golf balls in the direction of the UH track or quarry area.

Taniguchi declined to comment as she left the courthouse. Her family recently settled a civil lawsuit against Copperud for $85,000.

Defense attorney Victor Bakke said Copperud has taken responsibility for his "stupid" and reckless actions and has done all he can to make her and her family whole again.

"He feels awful," Bakke said. "How do you say sorry to someone about that?"

Copperud has since been expelled from UH and is continuing his schooling in his home state of Minnesota.

Taniguchi withdrew from the semifinals game, which her team lost. The incident caused the loss of five teeth and forced her to undergo continuing dental treatment, but she continues to play. She walked on this fall as a member of the UH women's softball team.

A decision is pending on whether the court can order Copperud to pay $7,791 restitution to the Crime Victim Compensation Commission, which reimbursed Taniguchi for medical expenses.

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