Driver pleads no contest to manslaughter in deadly DUI crash

Driver pleads no contest to manslaughter in deadly DUI crash
Marcus Sierra
Marcus Sierra

By Minna Sugimoto - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A woman accused of killing a man while driving drunk in Kapolei last year threw in the towel and pleaded no contest to the full charge of manslaughter Thursday.

It's not a move that many manslaughter defendants make, especially this early in the court process.

"It's very unique," Michelle Puu, deputy prosecutor, said.

Just six weeks after being formally charged, Kristin Mancao gave up her court fight, without the comfort of a plea deal.

"There is no plea bargain?" Karen Ahn, Circuit Court judge, asked.

"No, your honor," Marcus Sierra, defense attorney, replied.

Dean Gomes, 52, of Ewa Beach was killed last July, when Mancao's SUV -- going an estimated 70 miles an hour in a 30 mile-per-hour zone -- ran a red light and broadsided his Corvette in a Kapolei intersection. Prosecutors say the defendant's blood alcohol level was more than twice the legal limit, when it was tested nearly two hours after the crash.

"Her decision to drink and drive, coupled with speeding, coupled with running a red light, that's just a volatile situation," Puu said.

"She had a very short drive home, only a five-minute drive home. It's very easy for someone to believe that they can make it when they're impaired," Sierra said. "You can see how the results have been devastating."

Sierra says his client now attends AA meetings, has not had any alcohol since the crash, and hopes other drivers will learn from her mistake.

"Kristin, from the very beginning, was very remorseful for what happened," Sierra said. "It was her darkest hour to discover that she had caused the death of another person and she's been trying to make up for it ever since."

"Okay then, how do you wish to plead to the offense of manslaughter -- not guilty, guilty or no contest?" the judge asked.

"No contest," the defendant replied.

The 28-year-old faces up to 20 years in prison. Because she has no prior criminal record, she is also eligible for probation.

Prosecutors say the plea comes as good news for the victim's family.

"They are seeking jail time for this offense, which is purely understandable," Puu said. "But they are happy that she's taking responsibility."

The judge will decide Mancao's punishment August 23rd.

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