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Man accepts plea deal in dam breach that killed 7

July 19, 2013
The Maui News

LIHUE - A retired car dealer pleaded no contest Thursday to reckless endangering in a dam breach in Hawaii that swept seven people to their deaths in 2006.

State Attorney General spokeswoman Anne Lopez says that in exchange for James Pflueger's plea, state prosecutors agreed to drop seven manslaughter counts.

Lopez says the agreement calls for five years' probation when he's sentenced Jan. 23. At the sentencing, prosecutors can argue for additional conditions such as community service, a fine and up to a year's imprisonment, Lopez said.

Pflueger's company, Pacific 808 Properties, pleaded no contest to seven counts of manslaughter. The company will pay a $350,000 fine that will go toward a dam inspection and safety program.

"I am satisfied that by entering into this plea agreement Pflueger has accepted responsibility for his part in this tragedy," Attorney General David Louie said in a statement. "It is my hope that the events of today can provide a degree of closure for the families and community affected by the Ka Loko dam breach."

He said he's pleased Hawaii will have an additional $350,000 to help prevent similar tragedies.

Each manslaughter count would have carried a sentence of 20 years in prison for the 87-year-old landowner, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported.

Pflueger's attorneys couldn't be reached for comment.

The victims were killed after the century-old Ka Loko dam broke on Pflueger's property, sending hundreds of millions of gallons of water downstream.

One of the accusations against Pflueger was that the dam's emergency spillway, designed to keep water from flowing over the dam, had been covered. He has repeatedly denied that he had the spillway filled. An independent investigator concluded that the lack of a spillway caused or contributed to the failure.



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