In manslaughter trial, Hawaii Island prosecutors argue victim died of ‘reckless’ chokehold

The trip was supposed to be a celebration. All three had just completed their MBAs from Carnegie Mellon University.
Published: Jun. 29, 2022 at 6:08 PM HST|Updated: Jun. 30, 2022 at 4:13 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Friends Benjamin Fleming, Abhishik Gupta and Alexander Germany-Wald traveled to Kona last year to celebrate their graduation from an MBA program at Carnegie Mellon University.

The 39-year-old Fleming is now on trial for manslaughter for the death of his friend Gupta, who choked to death.

“The evidence this case will not show is that (Fleming) intended to kill Abhishik on March 28,” Big Island deputy Prosecutor Chase Murray said, in opening arguments Wednesday.

“The evidence will show that the defendant was reckless in his use of the neck restraint, or sleeper hold, or chokehold.”

Prosecutors said Fleming, Gupta and Germany-Wald were drinking heavily that night. When they returned to their vacation rental, they said Gupta first got into a fight with Germany-Wald, prompting Fleming place Gupta in a hold from behind.

But Fleming’s attorney argued that Gupta was still breathing after he was let go and had fallen asleep.

“He starts snoring. They hear snoring,” said attorney Thomas Otake.

Otake said Fleming, an Army veteran with war experience, learned to use the hold in the military to restrain someone not kill them. He hinted that Gupta’s choking was caused by something else.

“As Alex goes down and starts giving CPR ... vomit comes out of Mr. Gupta. It will be undisputed that he vomited when he was lying there on the ground,” said Otake.

Otake added that Gupta and Fleming were the “closest of friends.”

“Without a doubt, without a doubt Mr. Gupta’s death was a tragedy, without a doubt. But the evidence was showing it was not a crime,” Otake said.

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