HONOLULU (KHNL) -- A man accused of assaulting a military couple in Waikele earlier this year decides to skip his upcoming trial and accept responsibility. Gerald Paakaula now faces up to five years in prison.
"Guilty," the defendant told the judge.
With his wife backing him up, Gerald Paakaula gives up his court fight.
"A humble, hard-working, shirt-off-the-back guy decided to take responsibility for his actions, admit wrongdoing, and undertake efforts to heal what has been a devastating turn of events to two families," Todd Eddins, defense attorney, said.
What started as a fender bender in a parking lot in Waikele grew into a violent scene. Eddins says his client came out of an ice-cream parlor to find his wife and son in a confrontation with Andrew and Dawn Dussell.
"He hit each of the victims one time," Eddins said. "And, you know, he was unable to harness his emotions in seeing his wife bloodied and crying on the ground."
The case drew nationwide attention. But the Paakaulas say the attack wasn't racially-motivated.
"One wonders whether the venomous, hate-filled denunciation of the Paakaula family would not have occurred if Gerald's surname was consistent with his half-Caucasian ethnicity," Eddins said.
Prosecutors admit witnesses gave conflicting statements on who started the fight. They reduce one of the two assault charges in exchange for the guilty plea.
"The Dussells love Hawaii. Hawaii is their home," Don Pacarro, deputy prosecutor, said. "They want to move on with their lives."
Sentencing is set for December 2nd. Prosecutors say they'll go to the Hawaii parole board and recommend Paakaula serve two years of the five-year term.