Sentence changed to 18 months for driver who killed 2 women - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Sentence changed to 18 months for driver who killed 2 women

Family Court Judge Frances Wong Family Court Judge Frances Wong
Tyler Duarte Tyler Duarte
Michelle Benevedes Michelle Benevedes
Racquel Akau-Aila Racquel Akau-Aila

By Minna Sugimoto - bio | email

HONOLULU (KHNL) - A Waimanalo teen sentenced to two years in jail for killing two women in a car crash last year was re-sentenced to less time Tuesday.

Family Court Judge Frances Wong admits she made a mistake when she handed down a two-year sentence in a negligent homicide case last month.

"It was an illegal sentence," she said.

So before Tuesday's hearing, she had amended the punishment to one year in jail with five years probation. That didn't sit well with the father of one of the victims.

"He was very upset that a person who killed a pig got five years, and yet the person who killed his daughter and the daughter's cousin only got two years," Sheila Nitta, deputy prosecutor, said. "I explained to him the sentence was amended to one year and they were even more upset."

Tyler Duarte was 17, and under the influence of alcohol and drugs, when his speeding SUV broadsided a car that was pulling out of a side street in Waimanalo. The women in the car -- Michelle Benevedes, 39, and Racquel Akau-Aila, 38 -- died.

Prosecutors remind Wong she has the option of sentencing Duarte to an 18-month term. The judge agrees, changing the punishment yet again.

"More than one year was required," Wong said. "And so I'm grateful for the opportunity to correct my misunderstanding."

Defense attorney Donald Wilkerson says he's appalled and plans to appeal.

"I'm confident the Supreme Court will agree with me and tell you that you can't change your mind over and over and over again until you get it right," he told Wong.

"And you may be right, but I have ruled," the judge responded.

Prosecutors say the victims' family members decided to skip Tuesday's hearing because they were so upset at the original sentencing. Michelle Benevedes' father suffered a heart attack the afternoon of the first sentencing and spent two days in the hospital.

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