POSTED: 1:00 p.m. HST, Aug 27, 2014
LAST UPDATED: 2:32 p.m. HST, Aug 27, 2014
A wrong-way driver who killed another motorist near Mililani Mortuary in 2011 mistakenly entered the H-2 freeway on an off-ramp because copper thieves had left the highway without lighting, the driver's lawyer said in state court Wednesday.
Jameson Yong, 24, pleaded no contest to second-degree negligent homicide in June in the death of 40-year-old Lance Miyashiro in a head-on collision in the early morning hours of Nov. 19, 2011. The crash happened about a half mile south of the Ka Uka Boulevard exit.
Circuit Judge Glenn Kim sentenced Yong Wednesday to four years of probation and ordered him to pay Miyashiro's mother $11,645 restitution for her son's funeral expenses.
Miyashiro's family had asked Kim to sentence Yong to the maximum five-year prison term.
Kim said the crash was clearly an accident and questioned how Yong's behavior qualifies as criminal.
"It was without doubt a horrible mistake and it had horrible consequences," he said.
Yong's lawyer Clarissa Malinao said people who are familiar with the area where Yong entered the freeway say without street lights, it is utterly dark.
"Mr. Yong made a fatal mistake that night, entering what he believed to have been an on-ramp as he headed home from work to Waianae," Malinao said.
Kim also noted that there was no evidence that Yong was speeding, driving recklessly or was under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Prosecutor Kristine Yoo said outside the courtroom that authorities were not able to test Yong's blood for drugs or alcohol because he lost so much blood at the crash scene.
Shelly Leslie, Miyashiro's aunt, said the law needs to be changed to allow ambulance workers to take blood samples at the scene for later testing.
Miyashiro was pronounced dead at the scene. He was on his way home to Wahiawa from his job as a bouncer at the Mai Tai Bar in Ala Moana Center.
The crash left Yong trapped in his car requiring Honolulu firefighters to use the jaws of life to free him.
Yong says he doesn't remember what happened.
"To wake up from a coma about a month after the accident, not knowing where you are and being told you were in an accident and someone died was the most shocking news I have ever received in my life," he said.
Malinao said Yong sustained numerous fractures all over his body and traumatic brain injury. She said he is disabled and will require care for the rest of his life.