Driver who killed teen boy in high-speed car crash... - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Driver who killed teen boy in high-speed car crash gets 14-month jail term

Wayne Tashima Wayne Tashima

By Minna Sugimoto - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A driver who killed a 14-year-old boy and injured two others in a high-speed car crash in Kunia more than two years ago was sentenced to 14 months in jail Wednesday.

Prosecutors say the crash happened while two cars were racing in a residential neighborhood. They sought the stiffest punishment possible, 20 years in prison, calling it an egregious incident that could have been avoided.

He's described as a former special education student, diagnosed with mild retardation, who was reading at a second-grade level when he was a junior in high school. But his attorney says Melandrew Taban, 25, is fully aware of the many lives he shattered when he chose to race another vehicle on Halloween night 2007.

"The defendant is speeding and he is told to stop or slow down a number of times by his passengers," Wayne Tashima, deputy prosecutor, said.

It's estimated his car was traveling between 69 and 74 miles an hour in a 25 mile-per-hour zone, nearly three times the speed limit, before it slammed into a light pole on Anonui Street.

The front-seat passenger, Juanito Omnes, Jr., 14, the youngest of nine children, died at the scene.

"Like any family losing a child or a loved one to a violent offense, they're still hurting and will continue to hurt until the day they die," Tashima said about the victim's parents.

Back-seat passengers Jake Leano, 13, and Jendricks Bermudez, 12, were seriously injured. No one knows what happened to the other car.

Prosecutors asked for a 20-year prison term, the maximum punishment for manslaughter. But the defense argued Taban had no prior criminal record, made an extremely poor decision because he is mentally-impaired, and now refuses to drive.

"I can be a better person and learn from my mistake, your honor," the convicted driver said.

Taban tearfully apologized, calling Omnes, who was eight years his junior, his best friend.

"I always pray that he is in God's hands and that he can forgive me," he said through tears.

The judge then sentenced him to 14 months in jail and 10 years probation.

"You'll never see him again, your honor," Walter Rodby, defense attorney, said. "He understands how serious this is."

The parents of the boy who died say they are disappointed, but respect the judge's decision.

Taban will begin serving his jail term on Monday.

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