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Medical examiner’s office has new chief

Honolulu has a chief medical examiner on the job for the first time since October 2009. Dr. Christopher B. Happy took over as head of the city Department of Medical Examiner last week, city officials said.

Mayor Kirk Caldwell appointed Happy on July 8. Since then he received his license to practice medicine in Hawaii, a requirement for the job.

The chief’s position has been vacant since Dr. Kanthi De Alwis retired on Nov. 1, 2009. City officials say the low pay attached to the position contributed largely to the struggle to replace De Alwis, noting that board-certified pathologists are rare in the United States.

The Salary Commission subsequently raised the pay to $250,000.

Happy’s past positions include assistant medical examiner in San Francisco and Santa Clara, Calif., chief medical examiner in Milwaukee and medical examiner in New York City.

Happy received his Doctor of Medicine degree from St. Louis University School of Medicine and did his residency at the University of Massachusetts and the University of New Mexico. His appointment runs until Jan. 2, 2017.

Drug convict opts for prison over probation


A Kapaa, Kauai, man asked a judge last week to send him to prison on felony drug charges so he can persuade other inmates to stay out of trouble.

David Laamea, 44, asked the judge to not grant him the probation that was recommended in his plea agreement, the Garden Island reported.

Chief Judge Randal Valenciano complied, sentencing Laamea to five years in prison Thursday.

Laamea changed his plea to no contest to meth­am­pheta­mine possession on July 7. The state had recommended probation in the change of plea agreement.

But defense attorney Warren Perry said Laamea preferred prison to probation. Without a stable home or employment, Laamea did not want to burden others to care for him, Perry said.

Moreover, he said, Laamea would like to work as a mentor to younger inmates at Kauai Community Correctional Center.

"I want to use myself as an example of what happens and teach them to take the better path and not the wrong path that I took and am learning from now," Laamea said. "I think if I had someone at that age, then maybe it would have made a difference."

County Prosecutor Justin Kollar said his office is satisfied with the sentence.

"It’s unusual to see a defendant take this measure of responsibility for his actions and to be honest with himself and the court about his problems," Kollar said.

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