HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Charles Duncan choked back tears as he addressed the gallery in Circuit Court on Wednesday morning.
He was speaking directly to the family of Shari Afuso, the 49-year old federal court employee who Duncan fatally struck with his pick-up while she was jogging just after sunset on February 5, 2015.
"Holidays like Mother's Day and Father's Day, she's always in my thoughts," he said, through tears. "This is a burden that I will carry for the rest of my life."
Duncan was facing five years in prison for negligent homicide, which is a felony. After his statement to the family Wednesday, Judge Dean Ochiai sentenced him to five years probation and more than 1,000 hours of community service.
He also cannot ride a motorcycle anymore. Duncan was part of a motorcycle riding group. And on the night of the accident, he had a meeting with the Law Enforcement Memorial Foundation to discuss his group raising money to help fallen police officers and firefighters.
Ochiai called the case the hardest kind to sentence.
"I know truly both sides are good people and this is one of those cases in which something in the heavens went haywire to bring these good people together with this tragic result," he said.
On the night of the accident, Afuso was running across Kuahelani Avenue in Mililani in a marked crosswalk as Duncan, who driving a pick-up truck, turned left from Meheula Parkway.
His truck hit Afuso and she was thrown back onto the pavement, where she hit her head on the ground. Duncan stopped to help.
Evidence showed that he hadn't been drinking, was not speeding, and was not using his phone.
His attorney, Richard Sing, told the court that he just didn't see her.
"Anybody who's been driving for any amount of time has experienced at some point in their driving life, a surprise. A person, a car, an object that you didn't think was there that ended up being there," Sing said.
Sing asked Ochiai for leniency, saying the 73-year old Duncan should have his sentence deferred because he's never been in trouble, and served more than 30 years as a Honolulu police officer. Duncan also now cares for his wife, who has debilitating scoliosis.
In his testimony to the court, Duncan also apologized to the Afuso's family.
"I can only hope that someday in your heart, you'll be able to find peace and forgiveness, as I will never forget Mrs. Afuso nor will I forgive myself for what occurred that fateful night," he said. "I would like to apologize to my family for all of the pain and dishonor that I brought upon (them) as a result of this very tragic accident."
City Prosecutor Scott Bell said he felt that Duncan should have served some jail time, but understands that this case is unique.
Bell said it's easy to criticize a defendant who intentionally hit someone, or failed to stop and help. But in this case, he said, there are no winners.
Afuso's family did not speak at the hearing, but their actions following the sentencing spoke volumes.
Afuso's father and husband shook Duncan's hand. Her mother embraced him.