By Gregg K. Kakesako
POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Sep 06, 2012 StarAdvertiser.com
The defendant, who spent 12 days in prison, is given a time-served ruling for causing a fatal watercraft crash
The family of the Northern California teenage girl killed in a personal watercraft accident in August says a Honolulu judge treated their daughter's death like a traffic ticket by allowing the 20-year-old Australian tourist responsible for her death to get off with only a 12-day prison sentence.
Just a month after the Keehi Lagoon accident, Circuit Judge Richard Perkins sentenced Tyson Dagley, a Brisbane carpet cleaner, to the time he has already served in the Oahu Community Correctional Center until his family was able to raise his $100,000 bail.
Dagley and his parents left the courtroom without speaking to reporters.
Dagley was charged after the Aug. 5 accident with third-degree negligent homicide in the death of Kristen Fonseca. He spent 12 days in the Dillingham Boulevard prison before his parents, Alan and Ann Dagley, were able to raise his $100,000 bail. He entered a plea of no contest on Aug. 25.
Perkins also granted a request from Walter Rodby, Dagley's attorney, for a deferred acceptance of a no-contest plea, which means the misdemeanor conviction could be erased from his U.S. criminal record if he stays out of trouble for a year.
Fonseca died Aug. 6 of a brain injury, a day after her rented personal watercraft was rammed from behind by one driven by Dagley at the Aloha Jet Ski operation in Keehi Lagoon.
The Honolulu judge also allowed Dagley to pay restitution of $78,138 - in $30 monthly installments - to the victim's family.
After the hearing, Mario Canton, Fonseca's stepÂfather, described Perkins' decision as "a travesty for our family."
"It was like he was given a traffic ticket for the loss of our 16-year-old daughter," Canton said. "Like it really means nothing to him.
"We feel not only a loss, but it was just adding salt to our wounds by what the judge decided."
But Rodby, Dagley's attorney, said after the hearing he expects Dagley's family to fully pay the restitution.
"These are good, hard-working people," Rodby told reporters. "They take pride. They will keep their word."
At a news conference after Dagley's sentencing, Canton said at $30 a month, "it would take more than 200 years to pay us back."
The restitution is to pay for Fonseca's funeral bill, which amounted to $11,009, and medical and other expenses associated with her death, her parents said.
Richard Fried, who filed a wrongful death suit on Aug. 13 against Dagley and Glenn Cohen and his Aloha Jet Ski Rentals on behalf Fonseca's family, said he doesn't understand why Perkins didn't follow the recommendation of Deputy Prosecutor Scott Bell that the $78,000 restitution payment be taken from Dagley's $100,000 bail. "The money should have gone to pay for the expenses of the family," Fried added after the hearing. However, Rodby said the bail was not posted by Dagley's parents, but was money donated by friends who expect to be repaid.
Evangelina Canton, Fonseca's mother, said Hawaii's laws need to be strengthened because there is nothing in place to regulate the personal watercraft industry, especially the rental market. Perkins allowedDagley to return to Australia after he makes arrangements for monitoring by probation officials in Honolulu.
Dagley also will be required to perform one day a month of community service for a year and will have to undergo counseling. Since the August accident, Dagley's case has received international media coverage, including live satellite television coverage by the country's public television station on Wednesday.
During the hearing, Bell had asked that Dagley be required to serve the maximum term of the misdemeanor offense - one year in jail. Mario and Evangelina Canton, and their daughter Monique Sanchez also gave emotional testimony supporting
Bell's request. Monique Sanchez said the accident was "the most horrible thing that happened." "Our life has been turned upside down," said Mario Canton. Evangelina Canton said Dagley "carelessly, recklessly and negligently" took the life of her daughter. "I forgive you, Tyson," Evangelina Canton added, "but you must take full responsibility." Several times during testimony presented by Fonseca's family, Dagley openly wept, often holding his head in his hands.
Before he was sentenced, Dagley said, "I am deeply sorry for what I did. I pray every day for Kristen and her family." Referring to a scar on his head caused by the watercraft collision, he added, "I have a scar that will stay forever. I will never forget."
Perkins said Dagley appeared genuinely remorseful and is unlikely to commit a similar crime again. Perkins ruled that the crime was an accident and noted that Dagley has no criminal history. "No sentence can reap the meaning of her (Fonseca's) loss," Perkins said. Rodby said of Dagley after the hearing, "He is a good kid that made a mistake, a horrible, horrible mistake." Rodby said that he believes Fonseca contributed to her death because "she stopped in the middle of the jet ski course."
Police said Dagley was looking at his girlfriend, Natasha Ryan, who was taking video and photos, and was not paying attention to where he was going. The police report said Dagley was speeding at between 40 and 45 mph when he rammed Fonseca, whose watercraft was stopped or idling, and his vessel hit Fonseca on the head. She was taken to the hospital in critical condition.
Dagley was hospitalized in serious condition.
Ryan has been charged with hindering prosecution, a misdemeanor, because she allegedly deleted two videos of the incident from her camera. She is expected to enter a plea on Friday.