Puna man gets 10 years for crime spree

  • JOHN BURNETT/Tribune-Herald Lucas Ryan Rivera looks into the gallery as he's escorted into Hilo Circuit Court on Wednesday.

A 26-year-old Puna man who went on a two-month crime spree last year that included numerous auto thefts, the ramming of two police officers’ vehicles with a stolen car, an armed robbery and using a stolen debit card to make multiple cash withdrawals was sentenced Wednesday to a 10-year prison term.

Under terms of a plea agreement, Lucas Ryan Rivera will have to serve a mandatory minimum term of three years and four months. Hilo Circuit Judge Greg Nakamura also ordered Rivera to make $700 restitution to one of his victims and pay $205 to the Crime Victims Compensation Commission.

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Rivera pleaded no contest Feb. 12 to second-degree robbery, attempted assault of a police officer, unauthorized entry to a motor vehicle and three counts of unauthorized control of a stolen vehicle. In return for his plea, a first-degree robbery charge, a Class A felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison, was reduced, and numerous other charges were dropped.

The crimes occurred in a two-month period until Rivera’s arrest May 25 in Punaluu Beach Park in Ka‘u after a manhunt was launched following reports of a white pickup truck — which turned out to be stolen — speeding southbound on Highway 11 and overtaking vehicles between Kurtistown and Volcano.

The robbery occurred May 18 when Rivera punched a Hawaiian Paradise Park man at least twice with brass knuckles while another man pointed a sawed-off shotgun at the victim. A backpack stolen in the robbery contained the debit card Rivera used to make the cash withdrawals.

Referring to Rivera, who’s already serving a five-year sentence in a Kona case, as “no stranger to the criminal justice system,” Deputy Prosecutor Kelden Waltjen asked Nakamura to make the robbery sentence consecutive to the other offenses for a 15-year prison term. Waltjen said his request was “based on the nature and the circumstances of (Rivera’s) crimes, his past criminal history and in order to ensure the safety of the public.”

“Even more troubling than the number of crimes committed … is the defendant’s sheer lack of empathy and remorse for the victims,” Waltjen told the judge.

Melody Parker, Rivera’s court-appointed defense counsel, requested all Rivera’s convictions run concurrently for a 10-year sentence. Parker told the judge she “really strongly disagree(d) with the state and the probation officer’s evaluation of Mr. Rivera.”

“When Mr. Rivera had his support system in place, and that was his father, he was able to complete substance abuse treatment,” Parker said.

She added Rivera spiraled downward after his father was diagnosed with cancer and his health became progressively worse.

She said that inside Rivera “there is a good person,” and his circumstances caused him to develop what she called a “kill-fight attitude.”

“He had lost everything,” Parker said. “And when you’re that low, you’re more on a line of self-destruction than you are on a line of trying to destroy anybody else’s property. … You’re just working at chipping away at yourself, chipping away at your sorrow, chipping away at your depression. And it’s just, like, kill, fight. You just spiral down.”

Asked is he wished to address the court, Rivera said, softly, “I’m sorry, Your Honor, for my actions and sorry for everybody that I caused hurt.”

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Nakamura wished Rivera good luck as he was escorted out of the courtroom after sentencing.

Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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