Trial begins in freeway shooting
By Jim Dooley
Advertiser Staff Writer
The trial of a 20-year-old man charged with attempted murder began in Circuit Court yesterday with a prosecutor telling jurors that Joshua Gonda is guilty of an unprovoked freeway shooting that left a 16-year-old youth paralyzed for life.
The July 2008 shooting, on Moanalua Freeway near the Kaiser Medical Center, occurred after earlier violence between youth gangs called BTK (Born to Kill) and INR (Insane Notorious Realists), according to Deputy Prosecutor Scott Bell.
Gonda's defense lawyer, David Bettencourt, said his client is innocent of the crime but was blamed for it because he was cooperating with police in the investigation of another shooting that also left a teenager crippled for life.
Bell said in his opening statement that Gonda, while riding in a Honda sedan, opened fire on a yellow Mitsubishi Lancer in which victim Roger Curioso was a passenger.
Gonda "emptied" a handgun during the shooting, with multiple rounds striking the Lancer, Bell said. One bullet passed through a hat worn by the driver and another struck Curioso in the shoulder and traveled through his body to his spinal cord, the prosecutor said.
Curioso "will never walk again," Bell told the jury.
Bettencourt said another passenger in the Honda was guilty of the shooting.
"This is a horrible case. There's no doubt about that," Bettencourt said.
The shooting involved a cast of teenagers and young adults with "too little guidance and too much time on their hands," he said.
But he said the main prosecution witness, the owner of the Honda, gave a series of conflicting statements to police, naming Gonda as the shooter only after it became known that Gonda was giving police information about a May 2008 'Aiea home-invasion robbery committed by Nicholas Nichols.
Nichols last year pleaded guilty to robbery, kidnapping and assault in that case, which left a 16-year-old victim paralyzed.
Nichols was the driver of the Honda the night Gonda was shot.
He is serving a 30-year prison sentence for the 'Aiea case.
According to Bettencourt, Gonda was awaiting sentencing in a federal drug case when the freeway shooting occurred.
He was in the process of turning his life around, had no history of violence and had no motive for shooting Curioso, according to Bettencourt.
Circuit Judge Michael Town is presiding.