Driver who left bicyclist paralyzed from chest down gets 6-month jail term

Robert Kawakami
Robert Kawakami

By Minna Sugimoto - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A female driver who crashed her car into a bicyclist in Pearl City, leaving the man paralyzed from the chest down, received a six-month jail term at her sentencing Wednesday.

Susan Klein tearfully apologized to her victim, who appeared in court in a wheelchair. In April, she pleaded no contest to first-degree negligent injury.

Robert Kawakami, a 64-year-old auto mechanic, was riding his bicycle from his home in Pearl City to his job in Waipahu on June 29, 2009, when Klein's vehicle plowed into him. He suffered a crushed spinal cord, bleeding in the brain, two collapsed lungs and a torn aorta.

Prosecutors say the driver had traces of methamphetamine in her system, and may have been blinded by the sun at the time of the crash.

Circuit Judge Dexter Del Rosario told Klein that her "failure to exercise due care resulted in very serious injury to the victim, as well as those who have to care for the victim." He denied her request for a deferral, which would have given her an opportunity to keep the conviction off her record.

The judge, instead, sentenced her to six months in jail and five years probation "given the seriousness of the injuries." Klein is scheduled to start her jail term this Friday.

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