WAILUKU - A man who said he was sorry for overreacting when he punched a Maui Bus driver was ordered to write a letter apologizing and to attend anger management classes.
Haloti Mahe, 22, of Kahului was given a chance to keep a harassment conviction off his record if he stays out of trouble for the next six months.
Originally facing a felony charge of interference with the operation of a public transit vehicle, Mahe pleaded no contest Thursday to the petty misdemeanor charge.
As part of a plea agreement, Mahe was required to write a letter apologizing to Punahele Hoopii, a Roberts Hawaii employee who reported being punched in early May when she was the driver on a Maui Bus commuter service run from West Maui to Central Maui. She had pulled into the Westin Kaanapali Ocean Resort to pick up riders at about 5 p.m. and mistakenly thought Mahe was a passenger who had urinated in the bus several months earlier. After Hoopii told Mahe he had to get off the bus, he punched her in the face, she said.
"This was an unusual circumstance all the way around," 2nd Circuit Judge Peter Cahill said in sentencing Mahe. "You could have yelled, you could have screamed. But you hit the bus driver. That was a dangerous thing to do, especially while she was driving."
Hoopii had her foot on the brake of the bus, which was running and on a hill when she was punched by Mahe, said Deputy Prosecutor Kim Whitworth.
"What he did was endanger the 25 passengers inside," Whitworth said. "His angry reaction could have caused a very, very serious, disastrous consequence for innocent people."
Whitworth said the plea agreement was reached after she met with Hoopii, whose main concern was that Mahe and the public understand how serious his actions were. The agreement also called for Mahe to allow Hoopii to send his apology letter to The Maui News for possible publication.
Deputy Public Defender Danielle Sears said Mahe had already written the letter.
"It was just a frustrating situation for everyone," she said.
"I'm sorry for what I did, my overreaction," Mahe said in court. "I have never been in this situation."
Cahill found that Mahe was unlikely to reoffend and said the reduced charge was appropriate. The judge said he appreciated the way Hoopii had handled the case.
* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at email@example.com.