Maui airport
disrupter sentenced

A Maui man who tried to kill himself by driving a sport utility vehicle containing three 5-gallon cans of gasoline into Kahului Airport and setting it on fire was sentenced yesterday to 30 months in federal prison and ordered to pay $5,454 in restitution.


Paul Blatchley: He said he never intended to hurt anyone but himself by the fire

Paul Blatchley, 54, apologized in U.S. District Court to the entire state, saying he never intended to harm anyone by his actions on Feb. 29, 2004.

No one was hurt in the incident, which shut down airport operations for several hours, forcing hundreds of passengers to change their travel plans. The airport suffered property damage from the fire, and law enforcement were diverted to investigate the matter before determining it was not an act of terrorism directed at the airport.

Blatchley pleaded guilty in April to disrupting the airport's operations, an offense punishable by the maximum of 20 years' imprisonment. Under advisory guidelines, he was facing between 37 and 46 months.

Defense attorney Jane Kimmel described Blatchley's actions that day as of a man crying for help and who was intent on hurting himself, not others. "It was a statement about Paul Blatchley at a breaking point in his life."

He chose an area in the airport that was not very busy and repeatedly sounded his horn so that people would get out of his way. And after setting the car afire and getting out, he shouted to people to stay back because he wanted to die and did not want anyone else to get hurt. "These are acts of a man suicidal, not homicidal," Kimmel said.

Blatchley, a dairy farmer who ran a botanical garden on Maui, who has never seen or been in prison before, has been punished enough after spending the past 16 months incarcerated, she said. She asked if he is sentenced to more prison that the balance be served in home confinement.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Wes Porter asked for a sentence in the low to middle end of the guidelines.

There is a difference between wanting to kill oneself and killing oneself with a dangerous weapon -- in this case a car with 15 gallons of gasoline inside, Porter said. Had Blatchley been successful, warning people to get out of the way would not have mattered, he said. "We'd be dealing with a much bigger event than he caused."

U.S. District Judge Susan Oki Mollway, agreed, saying the potential for injury was great because of the venue he chose. She noted Blatchley apparently was deeply affected by the death of a surfer who drowned several months earlier despite the efforts of Blatchley and others.

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