KAILUA-KONA — A man accused of driving under the influence of alcohol and striking a pedestrian with his vehicle in December has pleaded not guilty in 3rd Circuit Court.
Along with impairment, Nicholas Martin, 68, is facing negligent injury and reckless endangerment charges in connection to last year’s auto-pedestrian crash. On Friday, Martin entered a not guilty plea and a jury trial has been scheduled for May 1.
The charges stem from a crash that occurred on Dec. 1, 2017. According to Hawaii Police, Martin was traveling north on Alii Drive when he veered off the road and struck a 51-year-old man in front of Royal Kahili Condos.
Martin was already facing DUI charges before the auto-pedestrian crash occurred. On Nov. 30, 2017, Martin was arrested at 9 p.m. after striking a parked vehicle on Lako Street, said Hawaii Police Department Maj. Robert Wagner. He was charged with DUI and was released just after midnight Dec. 1 after posting $500.
Wagner said Martin appeared to still have a driver’s license when the auto-pedestrian crash occurred hours later. However, two different vehicles were involved in the crashes.
According to court records, Martin’s driver’s license was revoked for one year on Dec. 7, 2017, in connection to the Nov. 30 crash.
The pedestrian, originally identified by police as a visitor from Washington, D.C., has been living in Captain Cook for the past six years. Officials confirmed the victim’s name to be Robert LaMarca.
On the day of the accident, LaMarca was taken to Kona Community Hospital in critical condition and later flown to Queen’s Medical Center on Oahu for additional treatment. On Monday, LaMarca said he’d been back on the Big Island for about two weeks.
LaMarca told West Hawaii Today he doesn’t remember the crash, or the first six weeks he spent recovering on Oahu.
LaMarca said he heard doctors classify his head injury as shaken baby syndrome. His vision out of one eye is blurred and half of his body feels frozen all the time, which affects his speech. Over time he could recover, or he might not recover at all.
LaMarca said he used to love participating in marathons but now he couldn’t run one because he can’t see.
As of Monday afternoon, LaMarca said he hasn’t spoken to the prosecutor or anyone with the police department regarding his case. He spoke to a victim’s advocate from the prosecutor’s office that gave him an update on the case, then again before Friday’s hearing.
“The only people who’ve reached out is the auto insurance guy who represents the vehicle the suspect was driving,” LaMarca said.
Deputy Prosecutor Stephen Frye said sometimes it takes time for the prosecutor to make contact with the victim since the prosecutor can be reassigned from District Court to Circuit Court. However, the victim advocates within the prosecutor’s office reach out to victims.
Frye said the advocates keep victims informed of the progress of their case and services available to them.
LaMarca is disappointed in the charges filed against Martin.
“There’s nothing I can see that shows he left somebody for dead,” he said. “If I was still in a coma, what would the charge be? It’s all very troubling to me.”
While LaMarca is concerned about the filed charges, Frye said attempted homicide or attempted manslaughter are not charges that apply to this case.
“You can’t attempt a reckless act,” Frye said. “The highest level of offenses were charged that fit the reckless act.”
In connection with the crash on Dec. 1, Martin is facing first-degree negligent injury; second-degree assault; second-degree reckless endangerment; reckless driving; two counts of DUI by impairment; no car insurance; inattention to driving and accident by striking an unattended vehicle or property.
He was released on $12,000 bail.