KEALAKEKUA — A man accused of driving drunk twice within 24 hours and striking a pedestrian within that time was found guilty by a 3rd Circuit Court judge on Wednesday and sentenced to five years incarceration, despite the defendant’s no contest plea.
Nicholas Martin was first arrested on the evening of Nov. 30, 2017, after striking a parked vehicle on Lako Street in Kailua-Kona. Deputy Prosecutor Mark Disher stated to the court that his blood alcohol content level measured at 0.172, more than double the legal limit.
Martin was charged with DUI and posted $500 bail just after midnight. On Dec. 1, 2017, Martin was driving along Alii Drive when he struck Robert LaMarca, who was out for a run. Disher said his BAC was 0.168, again over double the legal 0.08 limit.
Martin has asserted that he doesn’t remember what happened the day he hit LaMarca, who suffered critical injuries.
“He does say he thinks he remembers hitting a basketball,” Disher said.
LaMarca was present for Martin’s sentencing and prepared a statement, which he read in open court.
“We’re all here because of Mr. Martin’s decision to drive not once, but twice (drunk),” he stated.
LaMarca said the first thing he remembers after the wreck is waking up at The Queen’s Medical Center in Honolulu days after the accident.
“I have read that people thought that I was dead,” he said.
LaMarca’s speech is slower and he walks with a limp. He told the court he needs to get a bone transplant for his wrist and that his nose is plugged from spinal fluid.
“I haven’t been able to taste or smell food since the accident,” he stated.
LaMarca added he never heard from Martin or his attorney.
“I never heard so much as an apology,” he said.
While his life has dramatically changed, LaMarca told the court this is an issue that goes beyond him.
“This is a safety issue for the public in general,” he stated. “If $500 bail is gonna get you back on the streets again, that’s a problem. We all travel these streets.”
LaMarca pleaded with Judge Melvin Fujino to do the right thing.
“Sentence him to the maximum penalty,” he said. “Let there be some consequences for his actions.”
Fujino asked Martin if he wanted to say something before he was sentenced.
“First I do want to apologize to Mr. LaMarca,” Martin said.
Martin told the judge that he didn’t remember when he started drinking. He had been going through a hard time in his life and his father had just died.
Fujino told Martin that most people who get arrested for DUI that’s a wakeup call, but he decided to drive drunk twice.
“In broad daylight, you changed another’s person’s life,” Fujino said.
Martin didn’t disagree with the judge.
“I wish there was something more I could do, but I can’t,” he said. “I haven’t had a drink in nine months.”
While Martin was originally charged with a myriad offenses, he pleaded no contest to DUI and first-degree negligent injury. Fujino sentenced him to an indeterminate period of five years and five days in jail with credit for time served. The counts are to run concurrent. He is to report to Hawaii Community Correctional Center on Sept. 14.
After the sentencing, LaMarca said he hoped Martin would be charged with all the original offenses. However, he was happy with Wednesday’s result.
“I feel positively about that,” he said. “I just couldn’t understand a reduction in charges.”
Maybe now, LaMarca added, people will think twice before driving drunk.
Brian De Lima, Martin’s counsel, said the case was tragic because LaMarca was severely injured.
“In a way, he feels very fortunate to be receiving five years in prison,” De Lima said of Martin. “Mr. LaMarca could have died.”
If that were the case, De Lima said his client would’ve been looking at 20 years of incarceration.
De Lima added that Martin has lived a full and law-abiding life. However, his client has been suffering from neuropathic pain, which has led to poor choices in how to manage it.
“He still suffers daily from his own health,” De Lima said.
Since the accident, De Lima said, Martin engaged in substance abuse programs and other treatments to help with his ailments.
“It doesn’t diminish Mr. LaMarca’s pain,” De Lima added.
A civil case in the matter is still pending before the court. Restitution will be decided at that time.
LaMarca’s attorney, Jeffrey Foster, said the case is early in the litigation process and could not comment at this time.