Jury to determine
shooter’s intention

Miti Maugaotega Jr. faces life
in prison if he is convicted
of attempted murder

A Circuit Court jury began deliberating yesterday in the attempted-murder trial of Miti Maugaotega Jr., charged with shooting a Punchbowl homeowner in the chest.

The jury will focus on one issue: whether Maugaotega intentionally or knowingly shot homeowner Eric Kawamoto, who had returned home and interrupted a burglary in progress.

The jury's answer will mean either life in prison with parole for the teenager, who was 17 at the time and has since turned 18, or a maximum of 10 years in prison for the lesser offense of first-degree assault.

Maugaotega is also charged with first-degree burglary; first-degree robbery; possession of cocaine, crystal methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia; using a firearm in committing the attempted murder and burglary; and carrying a firearm without a license.

In his testimony earlier this week, Maugaotega admitted he committed each of those offenses.

Maugaotega did not dispute he broke into the Kawamotos' Puowaina Drive home in search of valuables and spending money so he could "buy stuff" or that he was armed with a Colt .45 semiautomatic that he used to threaten and rob Kawamoto.

He did not dispute that items he left behind in an abandoned van while being hunted by police included a wallet containing packets of cocaine and a pipe used to smoke crystal methamphetamine. He also did not dispute that he did not have a license to possess a firearm and that he was not carrying it as required by law.

But Maugaotega contends he did not intend to kill Kawamoto and fired because the homeowner forced him to shoot. He only wanted to escape, said deputy public defender Walter Rodby.

"When Maugaotega had this confrontation, that was all he was thinking about," he said. "He was trying to get away -- it was not knowing (conduct)."

Before firing at Kawamoto, Maugaotega asked him why he was moving toward him. "Miti didn't want it to escalate like this," Rodby said. "If that was his intent to shoot and kill, there wouldn't have been any waiting."

During closing arguments yesterday, city Prosecutor Peter Carlisle argued that Maugaotega was the first to bring up the concept of shooting Kawamoto, not the homeowner.

When Kawamoto walked into his house and realized something was amiss, Maugaotega emerged from the kitchen and immediately pointed the gun at him, saying: "I am going to f---ing shoot you. Give me your money."

After being robbed at gunpoint and ordered downstairs into a situation he had no control over, the angry homeowner testified that he refused to go further and told Maugaotega to shoot him.

"This man has accepted the inevitability of being shot by the intruder; that's why he said those words," Carlisle said.

"Eric Kawamoto stood his ground, and that, in (Maugaotega's) mind, is forcing him to shoot him."

Maugaotega showed his intent to shoot when he shot Kawamoto and knew he had shot him, Carlisle said.

Maugaotega is asking that he be found guilty of the lesser offense of first-degree assault, causing serious bodily injury that creates a substantial risk of death. Emergency room doctors had described Kawamoto as sustaining "serious bodily injury."

"This is attempted murder and not murder because of luck alone, and luck is not a defense to these charges," Carlisle said.


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