Man who killed teen seeks deportation instead of lengthy prison term

Ivane Taumua
Ivane Taumua
Palo Griffin
Palo Griffin

By Minna Sugimoto - bio | email

HONOLULU (KHNL) - A man, who stabbed a teenager to death in Kalihi two years ago, was sentenced during an emotional hearing Thursday.

Convicted murderer RJ Ham asked a judge to send him back home to Micronesia instead of giving him a lengthy prison term.

With the help of a Chuukese interpreter, convicted killer RJ Ham listens as Ivane Taumua reads a letter from the mother of his young victim.

"I'm still thinking of my son. My dream is to have my Fusi back with me alive. I have no more hopes to think of. I'm like a boat with no sail," the victim's cousin read.

Fusitogamana Savea, 18, was stabbed in the heart outside Sonny's Market near Kuhio Park Terrace the day after Christmas 2007.

"I work at KPT," Palo Griffin, victim's cousin, said. "Every time, almost every day, I had to stand there at the gate right next to where my first cousin laid in pile of blood."

Prosecutors say three years earlier, Ham used a slingshot to fire lug nuts and marbles at the heads of unsuspecting people. He received probation, and then committed the murder.

"He was given his one solid chance and he blew it," Landon Murata, deputy prosecutor, said. "He spit it back in our faces."

But the defense argues the native of Micronesia, who was intoxicated in both cases, was hampered by his inability to speak English, his limited education and cultural differences.

"His prior convictions, your honor, in this case show that he had not learned the ways of our American culture," Maria Avinante, defense attorney, said.

She says it would save Hawaii taxpayers money to simply deport him.

"I would also like to ask your honor to please send me back home," Ham said through an interpreter.

Ham apologizes to Savea's family, but says the deadly stabbing was an accident. The judge doesn't buy it, and gives him a life sentence with a 10-year mandatory minimum.

"To this judge, common sense trumps culture and communication. It was completely avoidable," Michael Town, Circuit judge, said. "This is an undeserved tragic loss of a fine young man's life."

The judge also re-sentenced Ham to five years in prison for the slingshot assaults. That term and the life sentence will be served concurrently.