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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, July 4, 2006

Parents apologize in court for killing

By Ken Kobayashi
Advertiser Courts Writer

Asopaolo and Daisy Asuega turned to the relatives of the man whom their drunken-driver son had killed, got on their knees in the courtroom and begged for forgiveness.

"From the bottom of our hearts, we apologize," the father said yesterday. "We ask for forgiveness. We know my son's actions that night was unthinkable."

The father said they failed in their responsibility as parents because of what their son did in drinking and driving, then killing Marcus Chong, who was walking along Farrington Highway near Lualei Place in Wai'anae before dawn on Jan. 8, 2005.

"We swallow our pride," the father said.

The son, Dewayne Asuega, who had apologized earlier, joined his parents, also falling to his knees and weeping with them.

Circuit Judge Virginia Crandall yesterday followed the recommendation of city Deputy Prosecutor Darrell Wong and sentenced Asuega to a maximum prison term of 10 years for his first-degree negligent homicide conviction after he decided not to contest the charge.

Asuega, 27, of Wai'anae, a warehouse worker, registered a blood alcohol level of 0.14 percent after he struck Chong from behind. The legal limit is 0.08.

Crandall said Asuega called 911, waited for police, took responsibility for his actions and has a stable employment history and strong family support.

But the judge said the defendant also had been convicted of drunken driving in 1999.

Crandall said her only other option sentencing him to up to a year in jail would be too lenient. And while 10 years in prison might be too long, she said, the Hawai'i Paroling Authority could release him earlier.

The judge also ordered Asuega to pay $6,456, restitution for Chong's funeral costs.

In addition, she ordered him to start serving his prison term immediately.

The sentencing capped a highly emotional hearing that included Chong's relatives telling the judge about their loss.

Daughter Kiki Chong, 15, the eldest of the dead man's five children, told Crandall her father was her best, trusted friend.

"One day they will come to me asking me what was Daddy like," she said about her younger brother and sisters.

Interpreting for Chong's wife, Sharlyn, who could speak only in sign language, the daughter said the mother misses her husband and faces the hardship of raising five kids by herself.

The victim's sisters, Melissa Chun and Laura McShane, asked the judge to impose the maximum prison term.

Dewayne Asuega told Chong's relatives he wasn't asking for immediate forgiveness.

"I can't even forgive myself now," he said.

He said it was "irresponsible and stupid" to drink and drive.

"I just hope in time that your wounds will heal and you will be able to forgive me later on in life," he said.

David Hayakawa, Dewayne Asuega's lawyer, said he realizes this isn't Samoa, but the custom there is that the entire family accepts responsibility and goes through an elaborate ceremony when someone harms another.

As relatives and supporters from both families wept and sobbed, the father and mother, tears streaming down their faces, went to their knees.

"We feel your pain because we are suffering, too," the father said.

He also told Crandall to give his son another chance for his wife and his own children.

McShane said she respects the custom, and it was difficult to watch the parents, but said they should not feel they're bad parents or failures.

"He's an adult," she said about the son. "He's not a child. He drank. He drove. He killed my brother."

Kiki Chong said she thinks Dewayne Asuega should spend more time in prison.

"I lost my dad," she said.

The paroling authority will later set the minimum term Dewayne Asuega must serve before he is eligible for release on parole.

Reach Ken Kobayashi at kkobayashi@honoluluadvertiser.com.