No jail time for teacher who assaulted student with hammer

Branden Bitanga with family
Branden Bitanga with family
Tim Bitanga
Tim Bitanga

By Minna Sugimoto - bio | email

KANEOHE (HawaiiNewsNow) - A teacher who injured one of his students with a hammer avoided a jail sentence Wednesday. The victim, Branden Bitanga, 19, says David Izumi was a good teacher until he "lost it" during class earlier this year.

The 51-year-old says he was under a lot of stress at the time. At his sentencing, he asked a judge for the chance to keep his record clean.

David Izumi, who says teaching is his passion, made a third and final appeal to keep his job with the state Department of Education. He learned Tuesday that his appeal was denied.

Branden Bitanga sat with his family in a Kaneohe courtroom, unsure of whether he wanted to see his former wood shop teacher go to jail.

"I have no idea, mixed feeling right now," the assault victim said. "But, you know, his action in class was unacceptable."

"All rise," the court bailiff announced.

Prosecutors say David Izumi should serve a one-year jail term, the maximum punishment for third-degree assault, for throwing a claw hammer during class at Kailua High in April. The tool struck Bitanga on the head, causing a three-inch gash that required four staples to close.

"Students go to school and they face a variety of challenges and difficulties," Moanikeala Colon, deputy prosecutor, said. "But they never expect violence from their teacher is one of them."

The teen says it could have been a lot worse if he didn't manage to duck.

"I wouldn't be here today right now, standing right here," Bitanga said.

The incident, which both sides say put a black eye on Hawaii's educational community, cost the 12-year teaching veteran his job.

"Everyone in the state knows about this case, your honor," William Domingo, defense attorney, said. "Mr. Izumi, when he does apply for any job, this will come up."

"I would like to apologize to not only Branden and the Bitanga family, but also apologize to the court, to the state," Izumi said in court.

District Judge David Lo called it an act of "extreme recklessness and callousness," yet he decided against jail and granted the defense's request for a deferral. That means the misdemeanor will not even show up on Izumi's record if he stays out of trouble for the next year.

"There's a lot of facts that the court had in their hand to make the correct decision to look out for the best interests of our students that go to these public schools, and the system has failed us on both sides," Tim Bitanga, assault victim's father, said.

The 51-year-old says he already lost what mattered to him -- the ability to work with students.

"I would always be there to help them," Izumi said. "That's the part that hurts the most."

The judge ordered Izumi to serve 500 hours of community service and pay a $2,000 fine.

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