Woman sentenced in negligent homicide case

  • JUSTIN JAMES CLARK

A Pahoa woman convicted of negligent homicide in a fatal two-car crash that occurred more than 2 1/2 years ago has avoided serving jail time.

Hilo Circuit Judge Henry Nakamoto on July 2 sentenced Barbara Phillips to six months in jail with credit for time served and the remainder to be suspended if she follows terms and conditions of her sentence.

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In a deal with prosecutors, Phillips pleaded no contest March 18 to third-degree negligent homicide and three counts of second-degree negligent injury for the Jan. 5, 2017, traffic crash on Highway 130 near Pahoa between Leilani Avenue and Malama Street.

The collision killed 37-year-old Michael Simmons of O’Brien, Ore., who was a passenger in the pickup truck driven by Phillips, then 74. The crash also injured four other people, including Justin James Clark, the driver of the other vehicle involved in the collision. That vehicle was a van.

Nakamoto also allowed Phillips a one-year deferral on her no-contest plea, which means if she stays out of legal trouble for a year, the misdemeanor conviction will be wiped from her record.

Phillips originally was charged with second-degree negligent injury and three counts of first-degree negligent injury, all Class C felonies punishable by up to five years in prison, upon conviction.

She also was ordered to pay $253.32 in restitution to Malama Gedarro, identified in court documents as a negligent injury victim. The others are Jessica Simmons and a minor whose initials are “T.J.”

Clark, 32, still faces charges of first-degree negligent homicide, a Class B felony punishable by up to 10 years imprisonment, and three counts of first-degree negligent injury, a Class C felony.

According to the indictment, Clark drove “in a negligent manner while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.” He was arrested on suspicion of DUI following the crash but wasn’t charged with the offense.

Clark, who requested and was granted a court-ordered mental examination, has an Aug. 2 court date before Nakamoto.

He also filed suit against Phillips on Jan. 3, alleging Phillips made an illegal U-turn, which caused Clark to broadside her pickup with his van. He’s seeking unspecified monetary damages, claiming he continues to suffer from injuries sustained in the collision and post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of the crash.

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Clark is in custody at Hawaii Community Correctional Center in lieu of $60,000 bail.

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

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