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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted at 12:17 p.m., Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Kumu hula gets six month jail term in traffic death

By Kevin Dayton
Advertiser Big Island Bureau

Big Island kumu hula Ray Fonseca, left, appears in a Hilo courtroom for sentencing today with his attorney Andy Wilson.

WILLIAM ING | The Tribune Herald via Associated Press

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HILO, Hawai'i — Kumu hula Rae Fonseca was sentenced to six months in jail today for a 2003 traffic accident that killed a Big Island man, but will be allowed to leave jail to work and to perform community service.

Fonseca, 52, tested positive for cocaine after the Dec. 13, 2003 crash that killed 58-year-old Michael Spens on a private road in the Eden Roc subdivision.

Fonseca pleaded no contest in February to a charge of second-degree negligent homicide in the death. Under the terms of the plea agreement, prosecutors agreed not to seek more than six months in jail for Fonseca, who is head of the Hilo-based Halau Hula 'O Kahikilaulani.

Hilo Circuit Judge Greg Nakamura agreed to allow Fonseca to leave jail to continue his work with his hula halau under a schedule Fonseca must work out with state prison officials. He also will be allowed to leave jail for up to seven hours a week to perform community service.

Before the sentence was handed down, Luline Kahapea, a friend of the Spens family, read a letter from Spens' daughter Dawn, who said she missed her father terribly.

"I will forever feel incomplete, longing for how life used to be," Dawn Spens wrote. She was unable to attend the sentencing hearing because of an illness, Kahapea said.

A red-eyed Fonseca apologized to Nakamura and the Spens family, and said he wanted to take responsibility for the crash.

"I have a deep regret for the wrong committed and the loss of life that occurred," he said, adding, "I also realize there is nothing I can do balance the loss of life that was taken."

Fonseca's lawyer, Andrew Wilson, said Fonseca has agreed to surrender his Eden Roc house, the only asset he has, to settle a lawsuit over the crash filed by Dawn Spens. The house is being sold, and Wilson asked Nakamura to allow Fonseca time to complete the sale before he reports to jail.

Nakamura agreed to give Fonseca three weeks to settle his affairs before he reports to begin his sentence.