WAILUKU - Saying he needed help for his drug problem, a Kahului man was sentenced to a six-month jail term after being arrested for having a pistol in a vehicle under his stepdaughter's child seat.
"I never meant to put her in jeopardy by having that gun," Brandon Bal, 25, said in court Aug. 15. "It was just my fault, having it in that truck. I know my circumstances of being a felon made it worse. I don't know even why I had it."
Bal had pleaded no contest to keeping an unloaded firearm in an improper place, two counts each of being a felon in possession of a firearm and being a felon in possession of ammunition and altering an identification mark on a firearm.
"We have a felon with guns around a child," said Deputy Prosecutor Jeffery Temas. "That poses a danger to the community, a danger to himself and a danger for the child he cares for and was with."
Bal was arrested May 2, 2012, when police made a traffic stop on a truck that he was a passenger in, Temas said.
"To defendant's credit, he admitted having a pistol under a child seat in the back where his stepdaughter was," Temas said. "Fortunately, the weapon was not loaded."
Afterward, he said, police found a shotgun and 80 rounds of ammunition for both the shotgun and pistol in a search of Bal's house. Bal admitted he had obliterated the serial number on the shotgun, Temas said.
He said Bal told police: "Taking and holding onto these guns was the stupidest thing I have ever done in my life, and I'm not sure why I did it. I know I'm a convicted felon and that I am not supposed to own or possess firearms and ammunition because of it."
Bal thanked family members and friends who were in the courtroom gallery to show their support.
While incarcerated for the past four months, Bal said he has taken parenting classes and realizes he needs to change his priorities. "I always put my friends before my family," he said. "I want to change that. I want to be there for my daughter."
Bal said he had been working and wanted to continue. "I just hope I can get that chance," he said.
Following a plea agreement between the defense and prosecution, 2nd Circuit Judge Joseph Cardoza placed Bal on five years' probation. He was ordered not to consume alcohol or illegal drugs and to perform 200 hours of community service.
Bal's probation was revoked, and he was resentenced to another five years' probation for first-degree unauthorized entry into a motor vehicle in a 2006 case.
Cardoza also ordered Bal to write a letter apologizing to his stepdaughter, his family and the community.
"You have a lot of proving to do to your community and those around you," the judge told Bal. "You definitely have the ability to succeed."
* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.