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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, November 24, 2005

No jail time for driver who hit ex-chief

By David Waite
Advertiser Staff Writer

Michael Nakamura, left, with caretaker Alvin Noguchi, says he has been unable to use his arms and hands since being hit in 2004.

DEBORAH BOOKER | The Honolulu Advertiser

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The man who hit former Honolulu Police Chief Michael Nakamura in September 2004 while Nakamura was driving his motorized scooter in a crosswalk was sentenced to five years probation yesterday and ordered to pay $4,647 in restitution at the rate of at least $25 a month.

Anthony G. Pearce II, 21, could have been sentenced to a maximum of 10 years in prison for leaving the scene of an accident that resulted in seriously bodily injury. But Circuit Judge Derrick Chan, at the urging of the prosecution, gave Pearce probation in part so he can make the restitution payments. Most of the money will be used to replace Nakamura's motorized scooter. Nakamura sustained two broken legs and internal injuries in the accident.

Chan denied Pearce's request to defer accepting his guilty plea to the charge for five years so he could avoid having a permanent criminal record. He also told Pearce he should never have been behind the wheel of a car that day. Chan noted that Pearce had been cited four times for driving without a license. The fourth citation came just five days before he hit Nakamura.

Chan also sentenced Pearce to perform 250 hours of community service within a two-year period, beginning in January, and to write a letter of apology to Nakamura and his family.

Pearce told Chan that not a day passes that he does not "think about Chief Nakamura and his family."

"At the time the accident occurred I was scared and didn't know what to do," Pearce said.

City Deputy Prosecutor Kevin Takata said the Nakamura family has forgiven Pearce and did not want to see him sent to prison. Because of that, Takata said he was asking that Pearce be sentenced to no more than probation. Sending Pearce to prison would make it difficult for him to make restitution to Nakamura, Takata said.

"We want him out and working," he said.

Nakamura, who resigned from the chief's job when a debilitating neuromuscular disease began to take too heavy a toll, did not attend the court session and said afterward that he "didn't want to be involved in the sentencing process."

"I think the more important message to the community is that everyone who drives should be licensed, should be insured and should be more obedient to traffic laws," Nakamura said yesterday when contacted at his Mililani home.

Although he has largely recovered from his injuries, Nakamura said he is far from being in the same physical condition he was before the accident. Nakamura, who lives with his wife, Carol, said, "I can't teach any more at the community colleges, I need somebody to be with me all of the time and I lost all ability to use my arms and hands. Otherwise, I'm OK."

Nakamura believes that in response to the injuries he received when Pearce's car hit him, his body released hormones into his bloodstream to help him deal with the trauma, but also caused a series of minor strokes.

Nakamura said family members told him Pearce came to his hospital room to apologize, but he doesn't remember the apology.

"I guess I was still unconscious at the time," Nakamura said.

Eventually, Nakamura said he "ran into" Pearce and his father at a Mililani shopping center and had lunch with the two, during which time Pearce again apologized.

"I understand that he is employed now and working with his dad that's good," Nakamura said.

Victor Bakke, Pearce's attorney, told Chan that Pearce eventually returned to the accident scene and turned himself into authorities. He said the Legislature created the deferral program for people who, like Pearce, have no prior criminal record and who will likely be contributing members of society if they don't have to bear the stigma of a criminal conviction. Bakke described Pearce as having a ninth-grade education and coming from a family in which both parents were involved in drugs. Nonetheless, Pearce earned a GED certificate and is working full-time as a painter.

"He can make up for this in so many ways," Bakke told Chan, suggesting Pearce could fulfill a community service portion of the sentence as a crossing guard.

Reach David Waite at dwaite@honoluluadvertiser.com.