Man sentenced to 10 years for fatal DUI crash

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KEALAKEKUA — The man who killed his girlfriend while driving under the influence of drugs more than three years ago was sentenced to up to 10 years in prison Tuesday.

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KEALAKEKUA — The man who killed his girlfriend while driving under the influence of drugs more than three years ago was sentenced to up to 10 years in prison Tuesday.

Randall Kawasaki, 37, of Kailua-Kona, pleaded no contest to a charge of first-degree negligent homicide on grounds that other charges were dropped. The Hawaii Paroling Authority will ultimately decide the exact prison term at a later date.

Police said that at 1:15 a.m. Jan. 15, 2013, Kawasaki was driving a 2000 Volkswagen two-door sedan north on Mamalahoa Highway in Kailua-Kona at mile marker 27 when he lost control, crossed the center line and struck a utility pole on the makai side of the road.

Hannah Fergerstrom, 27, Kailua-Kona, was killed in the crash.

“Instead of a pole, he could have hit a car, a family, another family,” said Jesse Fergerstrom, the victim’s brother, in his statement to the court. “They were on the dark side, doing bad things. You know nothing good happens on the dark side.”

Their mother, Barbara Fergerstrom Penn, had a shorter statement. She showed a photo of a smiling Hannah to the court.

“This is my beautiful daughter. This was what was taken away from me and my family,” she said.

She asked that Kawasaki be taken off the streets so he could not harm other people, referring to another DUI arrest Kawasaki experienced after causing the fatal accident.

Kawasaki admitted in court he was addicted to prescription painkillers for his back and tests at the time showed other drugs in his system.

“The state questions how serious he is about addressing this issue in his life,” said Kimberly Taniyama, deputy prosecuting attorney.

Drug use led to another accident, she said, when he was arrested on March 27, 2014, on a drugged driving charge in Honolulu. The case was dismissed in Dec. 22, 2014, because prosecutors were never able to secure all the officers involved at the same time, said Dave Koga, spokesman for the Honolulu Department of the Prosecuting Attorney.

As a result of the arrest, his license was administratively revoked. Taniyama said it showed that Kawasaki hadn’t learned. He did not seek any sort of drug rehabilitation or treatment during this time, she said, even after the defense suggested he should.

Since he was not convicted, the arrest shouldn’t be considered in the sentencing decision, argued Wendy DeWeese, deputy public defender.

Judge Melvin Fujino addressed the point in his sentencing, saying he could not consider the DUI arrest under state law, but he could consider the administrative revocation for driving under the influence.

Both family members and the prosecution asked Fujino to choose prison. The Intake Service Center had recommended probation.

“It’s a horrible, horrible event. We, as a family, would like him to have time to think about this. And choose the right path,” Jesse Fergerstrom said.

Kawasaki was indicted Aug. 11 by a grand jury on charges of manslaughter, first-degree negligent homicide, two counts of third-degree promotion of a dangerous drug, and possession of drug paraphernalia.

The plea agreement dropped all but the negligent homicide charge, and reduced the possible sentences and led to concerns by Barbara Fergerstrom Penn prior to the sentencing.

The duration of the case made it a “painful journey” for the family, she said.

“Words cannot say how sorry I am for what happen that night,” Kawasaki told the court.

In his statement, Kawasaki said the time between the accident and the charges gave him time to realize how addicted he was to the pain medication he takes to control the pain in his back from an earlier injury. He said he will begin the process for the surgery to remove the metal in his back, which will take a year.

After he finished, Fujino began to question him. The judge asked why he hadn’t gone through any treatment.

“At that time I didn’t feel it was necessary. It was a bad decision on my part,” Kawasaki said.

“Did you ever think what a senseless death this is for Hannah?” Fujino asked.

“Yes, every day,” Kawasaki replied.

“But you didn’t get a substance abuse assessment,” Fujino said.

“Yes, your honor.”

At the hearing Fujino had the option to assign him to prison or probation. By choosing prison, the term will be set by the Hawaii Paroling Authority.

Hannah Fergerstrom’s death was the first of two fatal traffic collisions the Fergerstrom family endured in 2013.

Gary J. “Buddie” Fergerstrom Jr., 24, was killed in a one-car collision on May 28, 2013, on Queen Kaahumanu Highway near Kiholo Bay.

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After the hearing members of the Fergerstrom family gathered outside.

Jesse Fergerstrom said they saw the best deal available under the circumstances, even though they were very frustrated with the case, not only how long it took, but also how little information they received along the way.