WAILUKU - A Haiku man was ordered to undergo anger management treatment after an assault on a 16-year-old boy, who was struck repeatedly in the head and chest with a mallet during a cowboy polo match in Makawao last year.
Wesley DeCoite, 58, also was placed on one year's probation June 7 after earlier pleading no contest to a reduced charge of third-degree assault.
The plea agreement reducing the charge from a felony was made at the request of the victim, who didn't want to see DeCoite imprisoned for the crime, said Deputy Prosecutor Kerry Glen.
She said the boy "was one of those kids who looked up to Mr. DeCoite, respected him, learned from him and felt he was a man who could be trusted, who could be counted on."
"For that reason, this was a very hard, hard feeling of betrayal," Glen said. "He wonders how someone he trusted so much could have done something to him."
The boy was assaulted June 26, 2011, at the Manduke Baldwin polo field in Makawao. According to court records, witnesses reported that DeCoite, who was on the opposing team from the boy, was playing very aggressively and appeared to be getting frustrated with the boy. After the boy was struck, the match was stopped and medics were summoned to the field.
"This did not have to happen," Glen said. "It was a deliberate act."
When Margot Sneed rushed to the field after her son was assaulted, "Wesley didn't even open the gate when he saw me," she said in court. "He just walked past like nothing happened."
Her son's head was split open, requiring stitches, she said. "He was so close to having brain damage," she said.
"We trusted Wesley," Sneed said. "Our whole life changed after this incident. It's been a very, very difficult year. I hope Wes gets help. I hope he gets help for his anger 'cause he's got a lot of good qualities."
DeCoite, who in 2006 was placed on 10 years' probation for possessing 80 grams of methamphetamine, is active in the polo and rodeo community, said Deputy Public Defender Gina Gormley.
"He is a great mentor to the kids in the polo and rodeo community," she said. "He's helped many families in treating their horses' injuries. Not only does he have a lot of support but he provides a lot of support for people in the community."
At his sentencing, DeCoite apologized "to all the people that had to take off work and support me."
"I do believe we learn from our mistakes," he said. "Hopefully, positive things can go on forward from this day.
"We've looked the whole thing over. We have a set of rules now and safety gear that kids have to wear. For me, this has been a learning experience."
Second Circuit Judge Joseph Cardoza asked DeCoite what he had learned.
"I have learned that when entering a sporting event like polo, we have to protect people that participate in it, screen out our participants so we don't have injuries such as this," DeCoite replied. "The worst thing that could happen is something of this nature."
The judge asked if DeCoite thought what happened "came down to a question of what equipment you wear or something else."
"It's hard to say . . . if he had had a helmet on, he probably wouldn't have had that injury," DeCoite replied. "I would never intentionally want to abuse (the boy). He's a good participant. He's a good child, well-respected boy.
"I'm not blaming anybody. He did get hurt. I don't know how much I can apologize; what can I do for him to change his mind?
"I guess, you know, I had a little anger in playing the sport. It's an aggressive game. He got hurt. Also the feelings got hurt, total outcome was devastating."
From police reports about what happened and the injuries the boy suffered, "it doesn't sound like it's part of playing polo," Cardoza said.
He said that DeCoite would benefit from giving more thought to what happened.
"You are one step away from a long time in prison," the judge told DeCoite. "If this is the way the sport is played, you should stop playing it. But I don't think this is the way the sport is played.
"I think you'd better reflect on what you did that day. I don't think you fully appreciate what you've done. You have a lot of support, there's no question about that. But I don't think you're at the point where you have learned what you need to learn from this."
DeCoite was ordered not to consume alcohol or illegal drugs and to have no contact with the victim.
He was ordered to stay away from the Manduke Baldwin polo field. DeCoite also was ordered to stay away from the Kaupakalua Roping Club and Oskie Rice arena when the victim is at those locations.