HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - It was a packed courtroom Friday as former University of Hawaii football player Kennedy Tulimasealii went before a judge for sentencing.
The star defensive lineman had pleaded no contest in May to six criminal charges, including felony property damage during two incidents with his ex-girlfriend. One led to a scuffle with police.
While the prosecutor pushed for six months behind bars, the judge chose to defer the case, as long as Tulimasealii stays out of trouble for the next four years.
The 21-year-old was booted from the UH football team in June after school officials determined he violated the university's code of conduct by "pleading no contest to a felony charge."
Tulimasealii's attorney, Michael Green, said the ruling Friday could spur UH to rethink its decision.
"What the court ruled today is that she did not accept his no contest plea and that's the reason they threw him off the team," Green said. "And the section that they threw him off the team and took away his aid was, it's conviction of a felony. He has no convictions of anything."
During Friday's proceeding, Tulimasealii acknowledged his mistakes and apologized to his ex-girlfriend.
He also had a message for his UH Warrior ohana: "To my coaches and teammates: forgive me for letting you all down. I have every intention to be someone you can rely on and someone you can be proud of."
Green says he's filed an appeal to UH's vice chancellor and hopes to meet with her in the next week Tulimasealii's football dismissal.
"I'm hoping that someone understands what a deferral is," Green said. "Someone understands that he's conviction-free. Someone understands over there that they didn't accept his no contest plea."
Green says he might take the fight to court.
Hawaii News Now contacted officials at UH for comment.
A university spokesman said the institution stands by the statement it released on June 27.
That statement read, in part, that "Tulimasealii has been dismissed from the University of Hawaii football team for violating the UH student-athlete conduct code. The code states that 'any student-athlete convicted of or pleading guilty or no contest to a felony charge shall be permanently dismissed from the team.'"
The statement continues: "In regards to his scholarship, the code states "the grant-in-aid shall not be renewed for any successive academic years."