Jury takes less than an hour to con­vict man in road rage case

The Maui News - - FRONT PAGE - By LILA FUJIMOTO Staff Writer

WAILUKU — A man who said he had been cut off while driv­ing be­fore he fol­lowed and punched an­other driver was convicted Wed­nes­day in a road rage case.

Joaquin Manaois, 70, of Wailuku was found guilty as charged of first­de­gree unau­tho­rized en­try into a mo­tor ve­hi­cle and third-de­gree as­sault.

A 2nd Cir­cuit Court jury de­lib­er­ated for less than an hour be­fore re­turn­ing the ver­dicts.

The con­fronta­tion oc­curred the morn­ing of Jan. 8 as Manaois was driv­ing to church Up­coun­try with his 10-year-old grand­daugh­ter, and Wailuku res­i­dent Alexan­der Lo­ria was driv­ing to work in Kahu­lui.

Manaois “let his anger, his emo­tions and his tem­per get the best of him,” Deputy Pros­e­cu­tor An­nal­isa Bernard Lee said in her clos­ing ar­gu­ments to ju­rors Wed­nes­day morn­ing.

Lo­ria, a 56-year-old sign-maker, tes­ti­fied he had been think­ing about stop­ping at Whole Foods and switched into the right lane on East Kaahu­manu Av­enue be­fore chang­ing his mind and merg­ing back into the lane that con­tin­ued on as the road turned into Hana High­way.

“Just as I was mak­ing the sweep­ing turn, I heard a beep,” Lo­ria said.

He said he could see that the driver be­hind him, later iden­ti­fied as Manaois, was “an­i­mated.”

“I’m think­ing, ‘What hap­pened?’ There was no close call,” Lo­ria said.

He said he turned his Nis­san Pathfinder right onto Wakea Av­enue and Manaois fol­lowed in a dark blue Lexus sport util­ity ve­hi­cle, pulling up in the left-turn lane next to Lo­ria when he stopped at a red light at Alamaha Street. “I put my win­dow down and said, ‘What?’ ” Lo­ria said.

Af­ter get­ting no re­sponse and see­ing the light turn green, Lo­ria said he con­tin­ued past Alamaha Street be­fore Manaois drove in the on­com­ing lane to speed past Lo­ria and pull in front of him at a 45-de­gree an­gle.

Lo­ria said a cou­ple of cars were be­hind him, and he couldn’t go around Manaois’ ve­hi­cle. Lo­ria had his en­gine run­ning and seat belt on when Manaois walked up and Lo­ria

rolled down his win­dow. “I just ba­si­cally looked at him and said, ‘What?’ kind of sar­cas­tic,” Lo­ria said. “That’s when he said I was in the wrong lane at Whole Foods.

“I sar­cas­ti­cally said, ‘So?’ He said, ‘My 10-year-old grand­daugh­ter’s in the car.’ And I said, ‘Why are you driv­ing like a f—-ing ma­niac?’

“He kind of looked around and shoved me in the left shoul­der. I said, ‘Don’t touch me’ and pushed him back.”

Manaois had stepped back, Lo­ria said, be­fore “sud­denly, I got the first hit.”

“I didn’t see it com­ing,” Lo­ria said. “As soon as he hit me, I just ducked and it was non­stop.”

Lo­ria es­ti­mated he was hit 10 to 15 times in the ear, head and neck for three to five sec­onds. When he said he was call­ing the po­lice, “then it stopped,” Lo­ria said.

He said the Blue­tooth in his ear was bro­ken and he was bleed­ing.

Lo­ria got the li­cense plate num­ber of the ve­hi­cle as Manaois drove away. Po­lice lo­cated Manaois later that morn­ing.

Manaois, who tes­ti­fied in his de­fense, said he was calm as he got out of his car to talk with Lo­ria be­cause he was con­cerned about the safety of his grand­daugh­ter and other driv­ers on the road.

“Mr. Lo­ria re­sponds with sar­casm, dis­re­spect and most of all vi­o­lence,” Deputy Pub­lic De­fender Zach Raid­mae said in his clos­ing ar­gu­ments.

Con­tra­dict­ing Lo­ria’s ac­count, Manaois tes­ti­fied that he was shoved by Lo­ria first be­fore punch­ing him four times.

Raid­mae said Manaois was de­fend­ing him­self when he punched Lo­ria.

“Mr. Manaois was only go­ing there to talk,” Raid­mae said. “He would have never hit Mr. Lo­ria un­less he had been pushed first.”

Even if Lo­ria had pushed first, Manaois’ ac­tions didn’t amount to self-de­fense, Bernard Lee said.

“Mr. Manaois is the one who fol­lowed Alexan­der,” she said. “Mr. Manaois is the one who stopped his ve­hi­cle in the mid­dle of the road, forc­ing Alexan­der to stop. Mr. Manaois is the one who got out of his car, came right up to Alexan­der’s win­dow at least an arm’s length away, which is very close, very in­tim­i­dat­ing.”

Bernard Lee said Manaois ap­peared to be “a very nice and lik­able per­son” who served his coun­try.

“Mr. Manaois is not a bad per­son, but he did make bad choices and de­ci­sions that day,” she said. “It’s not OK for some­one to be­have this way, es­pe­cially on our roads where we’re driv­ing with our fam­i­lies.”

Deputy Pros­e­cu­tor Jef­fery Te­mas as­sisted Bernard Lee in the trial.

Manaois is sched­uled to be sentenced Dec. 18.

Judge Rhonda Loo presided over the trial, which be­gan Mon­day.

Lila Fujimoto can be reached at lfu­ji­moto@mauinews.com.

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