HONOLULU (KHNL) - Tears, victim testimony, and other drama. All for the sentencing of a mango thief.
Honolulu prosecutors say the man should be sent to prison for trying to sell stolen fruit in Chinatown.
Neal Bashford sits in court, sick and tired of being victimized. The owner of Mokuleia Farms on Oahu's North Shore says he's losing the battle against crop thieves.
"Not only the financial loss of the fruit, which can be devastating to my farm," he said. "Sometimes, it's in excess of $12,000 to $20,000 a year."
So he wants the judge to drop the hammer on a mango thief. Sinfroso Villegas stole 300 pounds of mangos from Mokuleia Farms last August.
"At some point, we have to put our foot down," Bashford said. "Stop this. It's been going on for a long time."
For the first time, Honolulu prosecutors apply a new law that makes agricultural theft a felony. Bashford says the damage to his company goes beyond the loss of some fruit.
"They damage the trees. They break gates. They tear fences down," he said. "The damage to the trees is permanent. So I get no fruit production from that part of the tree forever."
Villegas breaks down in tears, as he asks the judge for leniency.
"I'm sorry I did that," he said. "And I won't do it again."
The 44-year-old can't avoid jail. He's sentenced to a year, and is ordered to pay $3,300 in restitution.
"This sentence recognizes that Hawaii's agricultural industry must be protected from death by a thousand cuts," Michael Wilson, Circuit judge, said.