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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, February 25, 2010

Driver in fatal high-speed crash gets 14-month term

By Jim Dooley
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Melandrew Taban was described yesterday by his attorney as a "hardworking young man who has never been in trouble before."

BRUCE ASATO | The Honolulu Advertiser

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Melandrew Taban, 25, was sentenced yesterday to 14 months in jail and 10 years of probation for a high-speed car-racing crash in Central O'ahu that killed a 14-year-old boy and seriously wounded two other young passengers in Taban's car.

Taban, then 22, was driving the three younger boys home on Halloween night in 2007 after the boys had finished trick-or-treating, according to Deputy Prosecutor Wayne Tashima.

Another vehicle pulled up alongside Taban's car on Kunia Road and "kind of challenged Taban to a race," Tashima said.

Defense lawyer Walter Rodby told Circuit Judge Richard Perkins that Taban is mildly mentally retarded.

"My client has cognitive defects and was unable to make a sound decision," Rodby said.

"He's a hardworking young man who has never been in trouble before," Rodby said.

The two cars raced up 'Anonui Street in the Royal Kunia subdivision, reaching speeds estimated at 80 to 90 mph, Tashima said.

As Taban's young passengers told him to stop racing and slow down, Taban lost control of the car on a curve and slammed into a light pole.

Killed was Juanito Omnes Jr., 14, an eighth-grader at Wahiawā Middle School. Seriously injured were 13- and 12-year-old boys who were passengers in the back seat.

Omnes was wearing his seat belt in the front passenger seat. The other two passengers were thrown from the vehicle by the impact of the crash, Tashima said.

Tashima asked Perkins to sentence Taban to up to 20 years in prison for his conviction on one manslaughter charge and two counts of assault.

Perkins imposed the 14-month jail term and 10 years of probation and ordered Taban to surrender Monday.

Rodby said Omnes was Taban's best friend.

"He hasn't forgiven himself. He has tattooed his best friend's name on his body as a reminder of what happened that day, of the pain that he caused," Rodby said of Taban.

Taban's parents no longer allow him to drive, Rodby said.

Friends and family of Omnes and the other victims chose not to speak at the sentencing hearing.