Shock over reduced sentence
By Eloise Aguiar
Advertiser Staff Writer
A Big Island deputy prosecutor yesterday said the department was shocked and disappointed by a state judge's decision to reduce the sentence of a Kealakekua woman who caused a fatal accident while intoxicated in 2006.
Dana-Nicole Ellisor had been sentenced to 10 years for negligent homicide for a March 27, 2006, crash that killed Christina Galutira, 67.
Circuit Judge Elizabeth Strance last month reduced the sentence to 18 months in prison and probation.
In granting the reduction, the judge said the defendant's rehabilitation in prison was "really extraordinary," a news release from the prosecutor's office said.
"We were shocked and we were disappointed, but beyond that, I can't really comment," said Kimberly Taniyama, deputy prosecuting attorney who represented the state in the initial case.
Ellisor will be released in July and be on probation for five years.
Members of Galutira's family could not be reached for comment.
Police said Ellisor was the driver of a 2006 Ford sedan that crossed the center line and crashed head-on into a north-bound 2004 Honda sedan on Queen Ka'ahumanu Highway in Kailua, Kona.
The crash killed Christina Galurita and injured her husband, Andres Galutira, and Carlito Mallen, who was in a third car.
Ellisor's blood-alcohol level was .126 percent, above the legal limit of .08 percent.
Six weeks earlier, on Feb. 16, 2009, Ellisor's blood-alcohol level was .193 after a crash in which she drove off the right shoulder of Kuakini Highway at Walua Road, hit a wall and a building, and her car overturned.
Taniyama said the state and members of the Galutira family opposed the motion, but that the judge was swayed by Ellisor's work in prison programs, completion of classes and a pamphlet that she wrote about her life before and after Galutira's death.
"We opposed (the request) because we believe that the original sentence was a just and appropriate sentence," Taniyama said.
Ellisor pleaded guilty to first-degree negligent homicide, operating a vehicle under the influence of an intoxicant, inattention to driving, assault in the third degree and negligent injury in the first degree.
William Heflin, whose Hilo firm represented Ellisor, said the judge originally ordered the harsher sentence because Ellisor didn't seem to understand the gravity of the offense, but after 18 months, Ellisor proved that she understood and made efforts to change.
"She always admitted that she was responsible," Heflin said. "She was basically a model prisoner. She started programs inside jail. She helped people who were inside jail to transition out. She met with many community groups, including young students, and they could really relate to her because of her age. It was somebody they could look at, a peer, who basically was a good person that made horrible decision that affected a lot of people."
Ian Mattoch, who represented the Galutira family in a lawsuit against Ellisor and the bar where Ellisor was drinking before the fatal crash, said he felt the reduction in the sentence was appropriate, given the defendant's attitude.
"She's a very compelling person," Mattoch said. "Of anybody I've ever seen in the circumstances, she seems to have the most genuine regret that I've ever seen from a person with a drug DUI."
Heflin said his client will continue to participate in awareness activities as part of her release.
"She was genuinely remorseful," he said. "Unfortunately, in these kinds of cases, no amount of remorse or regret satisfies the family, and it's understandable."