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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Thursday, March 10, 2005

Pageant winner granted leniency in sentencing for crystal meth

By Ken Kobayashi
Advertiser Courts Writer

A former Miss Hawai'i USA who was described as having everything going for her before she turned to crystal methamphetamine was given a chance yesterday to put her life back together.

Tiffini Limahai
Tiffini Limahai pleaded guilty in November to felony charges of possessing ice and drug paraphernalia, but Circuit Judge Richard Perkins yesterday granted her request to have the case dropped if she abides by conditions similar to probation for five years.

Limahai must also complete a residential treatment drug rehabilitation program at the Sand Island Treatment Center, the judge ordered.

"I know I was wrong and I'm sorry," Limahai told the judge.

City Deputy Prosecutor Marvin Rampey argued that Limahai should be sentenced to probation and serve a year in jail because of the crimes and the drug involved. He said also Limahai has had previous arrests for contempt of court.

Tiffini Limahai gets a hug from her mother. Limahai must meet probation-like conditions for five years and finish drug rehab.

Gregory Yamamoto • The Honolulu Advertiser

But Judge Perkins said Limahai does not have an extensive criminal history. "She obviously has shown a lot of insight into her drug dependency," he said. "By her accomplishments in life, she's demonstrated she's capable of succeeding."

Limahai later declined to comment but her lawyer, Scott Collins, said his client was "extremely pleased."

"She almost fainted," he said.

Perkins could have sentenced Limahai to as many as 10 years in prison for possession of the drug and five years for possession of the paraphernalia.

The sentencing caps the case that once again underscored the pervasiveness of the ice epidemic that has destroyed the lives of Hawai'i residents from just about all walks of life.

Limahai, 30, was Miss Hawai'i USA in 1998. Her mother, Korin Carter, told Perkins that Limahai has always been an "outstanding person" who was class president at Kalaheo High School, then got married and had a child and a successful career. "Life was just wonderful, then she made the wrong choice," the mother said.

Limahai was arrested Sept. 14 as police prepared to search a Kailua home. She was held in lieu of $15,000 bail, but then released to the Sand Island program.

Collins told the judge that a jail term would interfere with his client's treatment. He said he understands why the prosecutor might want incarceration to send a message to the community about ice use, but said Limahai can help serve the community by sharing her ordeal so others can avoid that fate.

He said there's no set timetable for her release.

Collins said Limahai has filed for divorce from her husband, who was also arrested Sept. 14 in the ice case. Her son is being raised by her parents, although she hopes to reunite with him after she completes her treatment, he said.

Collins said Limahai had been addicted to the drug for about five years.

In her address to the judge, Limahai said she's not proud of her "very selfish" addiction, but said her arrest changed her life and made her more "honest with myself."

Reach Ken Kobayashi at kkobayashi@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8030.