WAILUKU - A Kihei man who tearfully said he was sorry for a traffic crash two years ago that killed his passenger and friend was sentenced Wednesday to a five-year prison term.
"I could spend the rest of my life in prison, it would never make me feel any better about this," Stephen Ray said in court. "I know I got to continue to live a better life for Ryan and myself."
As he spoke, Ray turned to the courtroom gallery filled with family members and friends of 19-year-old Ryan Poulter of Kihei. He was the front-seat passenger in a 1993 Toyota Camry driven by Ray when it hit a tree on Wailea Alanui Drive at about 7:30 p.m. July 4, 2011. Poulter was transported in critical condition to Maui Memorial Medical Center, where he died the next morning.
Ray, 23, was sentenced as a young adult offender, reducing by half the 10-year prison term he faced after he had pleaded no contest to first-degree negligent homicide. He also pleaded no contest to second-degree negligent injury of another passenger in the car.
A police investigation showed no attempt to avoid the crash by Ray, said Deputy Prosecutor Mark Simonds. He said Ray's blood-alcohol level was measured at 0.201 percent, more than twice the legal limit of 0.08 percent.
Simonds said the prosecution took into account Ray's youth in reaching the plea agreement.
Defense attorney David Sereno said the sentence was appropriate for Ray, who was taking responsibility for the crash and was trying to improve his life.
"He had two best friends and one is gone," Sereno said. "He knows it was at his hand."
Second Circuit Judge Richard Bissen said many letters to the court for Ray indicated that he had not only tried to address his issues but had also tried to help others.
"His remorse seems to be genuine," Bissen said. "His sorrow seems to be deep sorrow."
Following a plea agreement in imposing the sentence, Bissen said it wasn't a sentence of retribution.
"It's a sentence of punishment for actions that should not have taken place," he said. "And this is a sentence for deterrence so that someone similarly situated will think about this before doing the same thing.
"So many young people make so many poor decisions. Some get luckier than others. But there are those that end up in this situation. There's a loss of life."
Ray was ordered to pay $19,625 in restitution. His driver's license was suspended for five years.
* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at email@example.com.