Teen apologizes for stabbing friend at Kalani High, gets 18-month jail term

Zoe Michael Espinola
Zoe Michael Espinola
Deputy Prosecutor Sheila Nitta
Deputy Prosecutor Sheila Nitta
Kalani High School
Kalani High School

By Minna Sugimoto - bio | email

KAPOLEI (HawaiiNewsNow) - A teen who repeatedly stabbed a fellow student at Kalani High in May 2010 apologized to the victim for his pain and suffering, and to the school for the embarrassment that he caused.

"I take full on responsibility," Zoe Michael Espinola, 18, said. "There's no excuse for what I did."

Prosecutors say it's clear that he planned the attack because he arrived on campus armed with a knife, and even asked someone what happens when you kill somebody.

The judge called it a horrific event, and said that children have the right to feel safe while at school. But he went along with a plea agreement and sentenced Espinola to 18 months in jail and 10 years probation.

The defendant was originally charged with attempted murder, but pleaded guilty to attempted manslaughter under the deal.

From dreams of a career in medicine to life as a convicted felon, it's been a head-spinning 13 months for Zoe Michael Espinola.

"I come from a very good family," he said. "They all had high expectations for me of going to medical school and what not."

The 18-year-old pleaded guilty to attempted manslaughter for storming into a trigonometry class at Kalani High shirtless, and then stabbing and slashing his then 16-year-old teammate from the school swim team.

Fellow students said the dispute was over a girl. However, both the prosecution and the defense on Monday said there were multiple reasons for the attack, not just one isolated incident.

"Whatever it was, his reaction was so off the charts and so out of line that it was disturbing," Sheila Nitta, deputy prosecutor, said.

The defense says Espinola was suffering from extreme emotional distress at the time.

"I made the mistake of not expressing my feelings," Espinola said. "I held it in all through my freshman year til my sophomore year til my junior year. Then finally, at one point where I felt really hurt, I just snapped."

The victim suffered five knife wounds, including two near his left eye. When he stood up to address the court, the judge ordered that our news camera be shut down.

"I didn't know what was going on...I didn't know he was holding a knife," the 17-year-old said. "I thought he was trying to play a prank on me."

"There was more blood than I've ever seen in my life," the victim continued. "Everything was unprovoked."

"This was the first time that the victim had seen the suspect since the day of the stabbing," Nitta said. "A lot of emotion and things were going through his head."

Espinola's mother sobbed, while his father kept his head lowered and his eyes closed throughout the sentencing.

"Through all the court appearances I attended and my mother was by my side, she was always crying for me," Espinola said. "So I can just only imagine how my victim's mother felt. I feel very horrible for what I did."

Espinola will receive credit for the time he's already served, which on Monday was calculated at 406 days.

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