Truck arson sentencing delayed
By David Waite
Advertiser Courts Writer
Hawai'i television and movie production figure George Cambra won't be sentenced for at least four months for his role in having fires set in 1991 that destroyed film production trucks owned by his competitors.
Federal Judge Helen Gillmor yesterday granted Cambra's request to delay his sentencing after one of the men whose production company trucks were destroyed by a deliberately set fire spoke in Cambra's favor.
While it is rare for a crime victim to speak in favor of postponing a sentence against a person who committed the crime, George Nottingham asked Gillmor not to send Cambra to prison just yet.
That's because Cambra is paying Nottingham $2,000 a month in restitution for being a party to a plan to drive Nottingham out of business by burning his trucks.
Cambra and Joseph "Joe Boy" Tavares Jr. were indicted by a federal grand jury in 1999 for burning trucks and other movie production equipment that belonged to Nottingham and a second business owner, William "Billy" Takaki.
Cambra pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges and became a key witness against Tavares, who was sentenced in October 1999 to more than 15 years in prison.
Cambra said Tavares came to him and offered to burn production trucks owned by Cambra's competitors if Cambra would give him a percentage of his future income once he had a monopoly on supplying movie production trucks in Hawaii.
Cambra's lawyer, Brook Hart, yesterday asked Gillmor to put off sentencing Cambra because Hawai'i's television and movie production business is enjoying an upsurge, allowing Cambra to earn enough money to continue making payments to Nottingham and Takaki.
Hart said there is no telling what condition the film industry might be like in Hawaii "a year or two from now."
At that point, Gillmor told Hart Cambra is most likely facing a sentence of 57 to 60 months and that she did not want anyone to leave the courthouse thinking it was going to be substantially less than that.
Nottingham said Cambra has stood by his promise to make restitution and that he and his wife, who now live on a fixed income, need the money to meet their monthly expenses.
"He's done a good job and is to be complimented for it," Nottingham said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Marshall Silverberg did not object to postponing Cambra's sentence, so long as additional delays are not sought. But even at the rate of $2,000 per month, it will take Cambra another 30 months to finish paying off Nottingham, he said.
"What I am concerned about is that Mr. Hart might be back here in January asking for more time," Silverberg said.
Gillmor said that while restitution is important, Cambra was convicted of a criminal offense and the interests of Nottingham and Takaki must be weighed against the interests of the community at large.
Gillmor continued the matter until Jan. 21 and said she expects to sentence Cambra at that time.
Reach David Waite at email@example.com or 525-8030.