Driver gets prison time


POSTED: Thursday, February 25, 2010

A 25-year-old Kunia man will go to prison for 14 months for killing his best friend when he crashed his car racing on Halloween night 2007.

The prison term is a condition of Melandrew Leano Taban's 10-year probation for manslaughter. During the 10 years, Taban is prohibited from driving without prior approval of his probation officer. Relatives say Taban has not driven since the crash and that they will make sure he never drives again.

Juanito Omnes Jr. was Taban's front-seat passenger. He died when Taban lost control of his car on a residential street in Village Park and crashed into a light pole.

The two back-seat passengers suffered serious injuries.

; Jendricks Bermudez, who was 12 at the time of the crash, was ejected from the car and suffered facial fractures and a concussion.

Taban's 13-year-old cousin, Jake Leano, suffered head injures and bone fractures all over his body. He was on life support after an ambulance took him to a hospital in critical condition.

Taban sustained rib fractures, a collapsed lung and head injuries, and went into a coma.

Honolulu police traffic investigators determined Taban was driving his car between 69 and 74 mph when he lost control in a 25-mph speed limit zone.

“;There is some explanation for his extremely poor or terrible decision-making—the fact that he is mentally impaired,”; said Walter Rodby, Taban's lawyer.

Taban was in special-education classes all through elementary and high school, yet was able to graduate on time. However, according to his school records, Taban lost his temper when teased and occasionally fought back to stop the taunting.

Court-appointed mental health experts who examined Taban diagnosed him with intermittent explosive disorder and moderately impaired volition control. They also found him to have borderline to extremely low intellect.

On the night of the crash, as Taban was taking his friends home from trick-or-treating, a car pulled up beside him, then sped off.

“;Believing that the driver of the Honda had taunted him, the defendant lost his temper, accelerated and began chasing the Honda at a high rate of speed,”; said Circuit Judge Richard Perkins.

Despite the pleas of his passengers to stop or slow down, Taban continued to chase the other car and lost control of his vehicle around a curve.

Taban apologized for what he did and said he wishes he could bring his friend back.

“;I always pray that he is in God's hands and that he can forgive me,”; Taban said.

As a reminder and memorial, Taban tattooed Omnes' initials on his back.