Driver who killed 2 teens avoids jail
By Jim Dooley
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Jim Dooley
In a court hearing filled with wrenching emotions, Tiati Kane, 23, yesterday avoided jail time for a 2006 automobile accident in Hau'ula that killed two teenagers and injured a third.
Before sentencing Kane, District Judge Rey Graulty cited her history of serious psychiatric problems as well as evidence that she had been assaulted, robbed and "possibly raped" shortly before she drove her Chevrolet into a group of teenagers standing by the side of Kamehameha Highway Aug. 9, 2006.
Killed were Summer-Lynn Mau, 19, and Orem "Benson" Kauvaka, 16. They were in a group of friends placing wreaths at the site of another accident 14 hours earlier in which two other teenagers were killed.
Graulty sentenced Kane to a year of probation, with the possibility that her record will be wiped clean if she stays out of further trouble with the law.
The parents of one of the victims, Shelly and Roy Mau, criticized the sentence after the hearing.
"There are more rights for people who commit crimes than for the victims," said Shelly Mau.
"The justice system here needs to be changed," said Ross Mau.
The Maus and Saane Kauvaka, mother of Orem Kauvaka, told Graulty during the hearing of the heartache they have suffered since their children died.
Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Katrina Ordonio asked the judge to sentence Kane to six months to a year in prison after she pleaded no contest to two misdemeanor counts of third-degree negligent homicide and one count of negligent injury. The maximum penalty for the offenses is one year in jail.
Ordonio disputed Kane's story that she was fleeing after being assaulted by "three individuals" when the accident occurred. Authorities could not confirm those allegations, Ordonio said.
And the prosecutor said the findings of a court-appointed psychiatrist about Kane's mental condition were "unconfirmed and incomplete."
Kane cried during much of the hearing at Kane'ohe District, telling Graulty and members of the Mau and Kauvaka families, "I am truly sorry."
"How can I ask you to forgive me when I cannot forgive myself?" she said.
William Sua, best friend of Kauvaka, told Kane during the hearing, "You don't know how much I hate you right now."
Sua was at the scene when Kauvaka and Mau were killed.
He told the defendant, "There are so many people in the court right now that want to hurt you."
Kane later responded by saying, "He said that I should be hurt. You have no idea how much people want to hurt me.
"I say, go ahead, beat me, hit me," she continued.
"I will be your slave for the rest of your life if it will make it better," Kane said.
Some three dozen relatives and friends of the victims filled one side of the courtroom. On the other sat a half dozen relatives and supporters of Kane.
The youngest of 11 children, Kane said she is of Hawaiian, Samoan and Caucasian ancestry.
"I promise I will live a pono life," she said.
"You can lock me up," she continued, "but I may go crazy because I have no control over my head any more (or) over my heart."
Defense attorney Kirsha Durante noted that Kane was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the accident but was suffering from "acute stress disorder"and was "not in control of her actions."
"The need for jail is not present," Durante told Graulty. "My client is very remorseful. This was a tragic accident."
Graulty called the case a tragedy for everyone involved.
He noted that Kane has been diagnosed with acute bipolar disorder, has attempted suicide twice and was hospitalized four times before the accident for psychiatric evaluations.
He ordered one year of probation and instructed Kane to continue mental health treatment and psychiatric therapy "until clinically discharged."
She must pay $1,250 in fines as well as a yet-to-be-determined amount of restitution to the families of the victims. Her driver's license will be suspended while she is on probation.
"Miss Kane deserves our support to make sure it never happens again," Graulty said.
Because the judge accepted what is called a "deferred acceptance of no contest" plea, the charges against her will be erased from her record if she stays out of further trouble with the law for a year.
Ordonio "strenuously objected" to the deferred sentence agreement, saying that the deaths of the two teenagers should remain on Kane's record.
"Her conduct resulted in the most catastrophic tragedy," the prosecutor said.
And she pointed out that Kane received a speeding ticket in May 2008.
"This could happen again if she is put on the road," Ordonio said.
Reach Jim Dooley at firstname.lastname@example.org.