UPDATE: Australian Receives Probation In Watercraft Crash That Killed Vacaville Teen
HONOLULU (AP) — The Australian tourist who pleaded no contest to third-degree negligent homicide in a Hawaii personal watercraft crash that killed a Vacaville teen will get to leave the islands without serving any more jail time.
Exactly a month after the Aug. 5 crash in Honolulu that killed 16-year-old Kristen Fonseca, 20-year-old Tyson Dagley was sentenced to credit for the 12 days he served in jail and a chance to wipe the case from his record in a year if he meets conditions of probation. He must also serve a day of community service each month and pay $78,138.06 in restitution for Fonseca’s medical and funeral expenses.
Last month, Dagley pleaded no contest to the misdemeanor charge, a decision his lawyer said was made because a review of the police report and video footage from the crash showed he wasn’t looking straight ahead. Investigators said he was standing on his rented watercraft before hitting Fonseca’s watercraft from behind and that he was looking at his girlfriend, who was taking photos and video.
During sentencing Wednesday, Circuit Judge Richard Perkins noted Dagley is “genuinely remorseful” and is unlikely to commit another crime.
Fonseca’s family had returned to Honolulu to tearfully ask the judge to rule otherwise and impose the maximum sentence of a year in jail and pleaded for him not to be given the chance to expunge the case.
“Not in a million years did we think we’d come to Hawaii for rest and relaxation … and take Kristen home in a box,” said her stepfather, Mario Canton.
“When someone asks how many kids do you have, I’ll have to explain,” said her mother, Evangeline Canton. “Well, so should he.”
She addressed Dagley’s parents, also in the courtroom, to say that she feels the pain they must feel for their son, but that they will get to watch him get married someday and have children.
“When I last kissed Kristen’s lips and face and caressed her body, she was stiff,” she said.
Then she expressed forgiveness. “I forgive you Tyson,” she said. “I know it was not your intent to take Kristen’s life.”
Hearing that, Dagley covered his eyes with his hand and began to tremble.
“I’m deeply sorry,” he said. “I never meant any harm. …I am going to live the rest of my life with what I’ve done.”
Perkins said he read numerous letters supporting Dagley, full of praise for a young man from a good family — similar descriptions he read about Fonseca.
Prosecutor Scott Bell proposed that the restitution be paid from the $100,000 bail Dagley posted. But Perkins said since the money came from friends and family who banded together to come up with the cash, it will be returned to those people. Instead, Dagley must pay the restitution in payments of $30 a month.
Bell said after the sentencing that he’s disappointed with the sentence and disagrees with the judge’s reasoning.
Rick Fried, the Honolulu attorney representing Fonseca’s family in a civil lawsuit against Dagley and Aloha Jet Ski, which rented the watercrafts involved, said her parents are disappointed.
Dagley and his parents plan to return to Australia this week, where he will continue working as a carpet cleaner, said defense attorney Walter Rodby. They’re relieved to bring their son home from what was supposed to be a five-day “dream vacation” that went horribly wrong, he said.
In Australia, Dagley will be in contact with Hawaii probation officials via phone, mail or email, Rodby said.
Meanwhile, Dagley’s girlfriend, Natasha Ryan, remains charged with hindering his prosecution. A hearing is scheduled for Friday in Honolulu District Court.
A police report said Ryan told investigators Dagley was sitting and looking straight ahead before the collision, and that she didn’t see the crash. However, a forensic computer examiner recovered two deleted videos from the memory stick in her camera, which showed the crash and Dagley standing on the watercraft.
Rodby, who is also representing her, declined to comment on her case.
(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.)