Pflueger Pleads No Contest to Reckless Endangering

July 19, 2013, 7:55 AM HST · Updated July 19, 10:34 AM
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Ka Loko downstream damage, file photo courtesy County of Kauai.

Ka Loko downstream damage, file photo courtesy County of Kauai.

By Wendy Osher

A no contest plea was entered in court on Thursday by retired car dealer James Pflueger, to a reduced charge of reckless endangering, in connection with the 2006 Ka Loko dam breach on Kauaʻi that killed seven people.

The State of Hawaiʻi alleged that the Reservoir’s emergency spillway was covered, and that it “recklessly” caused the deaths of those in the path of rushing water when the dam breached, according to court documents.

The first degree reckless endangering charge is a class C felony, a reduced charge from the seven manslaughter counts initially sought by prosecutors in the case.

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According to the terms of the plea agreement, Pflueger will serve five years probation, with sentencing set for Jan. 23. According to the state Attorney General’s office, the state can also seek to impose conditions of probation during the sentencing hearing, including community service, fines, and imprisonment for up to one year.

Under the plea agreement, Pflueger’s company, Pacific 808 Properties, pleaded no contest to seven counts of manslaughter and agreed to pay a $50,000 fine for each manslaughter count totaling $350,000.

The Attorney General’s office notes that the proceeds from the fines are intended for use in enhancing the dam inspection and safety program administered by the state Department of Land and Natural Resources.

Attorney General David Louie issued a statement saying, “I am satisfied that by entering into this plea agreement Pflueger has accepted responsibility for his part in this tragedy. It is my hope that the events of today can provide a degree of closure for the families and community affected by the Ko Loko Dam breach.”

According to information released by Louie, he announced that the state will have an additional $350,000 to inspect dams and prevent future tragedies.

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