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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, May 24, 2008

Menor jailed 48 hours for drunk driving

Photo gallery: Menor's Day in Court

By Dan Nakaso
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

State Sen. Ron Menor, between defense lawyers Howard Luke, left, and David Hayakawa, pleaded no contest to DUI charges and will serve 48 hours in jail. See more photos at honoluluadvertiser.com

GREGORY YAMAMOTO | The Honolulu Advertiser

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State Sen. Ron Menor will spend much of this Memorial Weekend in jail after pleading no contest to drunken driving charges yesterday.

"It's the start of the Memorial Day weekend, it's the start of summer and graduation season," said Renee Sonobe Hong, division chief of the city prosecutor's misdemeanor traffic division. "We would just like to send the message out, please don't drink and drive."

As a result of his plea in District Court yesterday, Menor, D-17, (Mililani, Waipi'o), cannot drive for 90 days, must pay $800 in fines, undergo a substance-abuse assessment and attend substance-abuse classes. He immediately left court for O'ahu Community Correctional Center to serve a 48-hour sentence.

The mandatory jail term and $500 of Menor's fines came from his no contest plea to driving under the influence with a minor under the age of 15 specifically his 11-year-old son.

Before he surrendered to state Department of Public Safety officers, Menor said, "Today, I took full responsibility for the charge against me. I have always supported the need for strict DUI laws and I fully accept my sentence, which I will serve immediately. I deeply apologize to my family, supporters, constituents, colleagues and the people of Hawai'i. I have learned much from this experience and will never let it happen again."

A preliminary alcohol screen found that Menor had a blood alcohol level of .147, Sonobe Hong said, compared to the .08 level in which a person is deemed to be under the influence.

Menor was stopped by police at 12:30 a.m. April 27 near H-1 Freeway's Lunalilo on-ramp.

Earlier in the evening, Menor said he attended a concert by the band Chicago at Neal Blaisdell Center and went to a late dinner with his 17- and 11-year-old sons, where he said he drank one or two glasses of wine.

His attorney, Howard Luke, declined to identify the restaurant yesterday but said he had a receipt that showed Menor ordered two glasses of wine.

"I don't know if they were consumed," Luke said.

Menor has said he was driving slowly on the freeway because he lost both contact lenses and was using a single, older one, which kept slipping.

Police said the officer who approached Menor's car thought he smelled liquor and Menor was asked to perform a "preliminary alcohol screen" a breathalyzer test administered in the field to determine whether an illegal amount of alcohol is present.

Menor failed the test and was asked to perform a field sobriety test, which he refused, police said. Menor later said that a fractured left foot made it difficult for him to walk.

At the police station Menor, an attorney, refused to submit to the intoxilyzer test and refused to allow police to take a blood sample, police said.

He was charged with driving under the influence and released after his wife posted $500 bail, police said.

Menor had been cited twice for speeding since 1999, according to state driving records.

Luke yesterday called Menor's drunken driving case "quite a humbling experience. My personal feeling is that he will be a better senator, he will be a better human being, certainly he will be a better father to his children and husband to his wife. These things have already been reconciled in private and you could see he was very sincere in his penitence."

Other elected officials have been arrested for allegedly driving while intoxicated in the past year.

In October, state Rep. Jon Riki Karamatsu was arrested for driving under the influence of more than twice the legal limit of alcohol after he got into a single-car accident. He later pleaded no contest and is doing community service as part of his sentence.

Karamatsu did not resign from the Legislature, but was removed as vice speaker of the House.

Office of Hawaiian Affairs trustee John Waihe'e IV pleaded no contest to driving under the influence in May 2007, when he was arrested after colliding with a pickup truck. His blood alcohol level was three times the legal limit.

Waihe'e also kept his elected post, but resigned as vice chairman of the OHA trustees.

Reach Dan Nakaso at dnakaso@honoluluadvertiser.com.