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Judge throws out hit-and-run case that nearly killed 2, saying prosecutors took too long

Published: Sep. 2, 2021 at 4:51 PM HST|Updated: Sep. 2, 2021 at 5:13 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A young couple from Japan who were nearly killed by a hit-and-run driver outside a Kahala supermarket in 2017 won’t ever see someone held accountable for the crime.

A judge recently ruled the city Prosecutor’s Office took too long to try the case.

The prosecutor blamed the pandemic ― and now the suspect is off the hook.

Scott and Tomoko Wilson came to Oahu for vacation in March 2017.

The couple was strapping their children into car seats outside the Whole Foods in Kahala when a hit-and-run driver barreled into their parked car, crushing them.

“With time you realize just how lucky you were,” said Scott Wilson.

The injuries they suffered changed their lives forever.

Tomoko Wilson spent more than two months in the hospital after doctors used screws to piece her pelvis back together. Her husband’s once-shattered leg will likely never be the same.

“I still have pain and I still have tightness and soreness on my knee and my legs,” Scott Wilson said.

In the four years since the hit-and-run, the Wilsons say they never wavered in their willingness to return to Hawaii and testify against the suspected hit-and-run drivers. It was during Scott’s most recent attempt to get an update on the case when he found out that day would never come.

“We were both devastated because it was just something we never expected,” he said.

A judge ruled the Prosecutor’s Office had taken too long to go to trial and permanently dismissed the case. According to court records, the state didn’t explain why it took three years to charge the defendant ― Chiaan Bitar.

The indictment finally happened right before the pandemic, in March last year. By the time a court date was finally set, travel between Japan and the United States was practically impossible.

“A big concern is that if while I’m away restrictions tighten up I might not be able to get back in the country again,” Scott Wilson said.

The Prosecutor’s Office declined to do an interview for this story.

The suspect’s attorney, James Lewis, did provide some insight.

“At a certain point it didn’t seem like they (the Honolulu Prosecutor’s Office) were going to pursue charges because so much time elapsed,” he said. “It was really bizarre that time time they decided to do it was the least opportune time, for the state that is.”

There was also no reason to pursue a civil lawsuit because the suspect had no insurance or personal assets.

Now that it’s over, the Wilsons say it feels like they’ve been punished twice. “Now seeing the lady’s getting away completely free. She has no time spent. Nothing on her record,” Scott Wilson said.

HNN asked the suspect’s attorney why Bitar didn’t stop. He said he couldn’t go into his client’s mindset at the time of the incident but added, “there’s certainly some remorse.”

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