JOE D. ANTONIO
WAILUKU, Hawaii — A Kahului Filipino-American father was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole, after he was convicted of second-degree murder in the shooting of his 19-year-old son.
Because he also was convicted of using a semi-automatic firearm to commit the crime, Joe D. Antonio was ordered to serve at least 20 years in prison before being eligible for parole, according to a report by The Maui News.
Antonio, 47, who is also known as Jose Antonio Sr., has been incarcerated since he turned himself in at the Wailuku Police Station within an hour of the fatal shooting at 10:40 p.m. Dec. 16, 2008, at the family’s two-bedroom cottage on South Kamehameha Avenue.
Jose “JR” Antonio Jr. was found lying on the ground just outside the home with five gunshot wounds in his body.
Police recovered seven bullet casings and the father’s .45-caliber semi-automatic pistol at the scene.
“I just want to apologize once again to my family,” Joe Antonio said in court on Oct. 20, turning to several family members in the courtroom. “Sorry for causing the pain. I’m not the perfect father. I’m not the perfect husband. I’m not the perfect person. I just want to ask for forgiveness.”
According to testimony during Antonio’s non-jury trial that began in June, there were arguments in the home in the hours before the shooting.
Antonio’s wife Zenaida confronted him that afternoon about going to the Philippines with a woman who was allegedly his girlfriend.
Later that evening, after Antonio had been drinking with relatives and friends in the garage of the main house on the property, he and his son argued over a video game cord running from a living room computer to the son’s bedroom, where he was playing an online game.
The father had repeatedly asked the son to remove the cord, saying someone might trip over it.
The two also argued over $1,400 the father had borrowed from the son, in part for gambling debts.
At one point, the father slapped the son’s cheek and both threw money at each other that the father tried to repay to the son.
The son lifted one end of a couch and punched a hole in a closet during one confrontation, where he also reportedly questioned his father’s infidelity.
The father twice pulled out the video game cord that night, breaking it the second time.
Joe Antonio said he heard his son swearing in his bedroom when the cord broke.
Antonio testified he was afraid when he went into his bedroom, got and loaded his gun, and went outside.
He said his son had kicked open the screen door and was swearing, and had a hand on the father’s neck before he fired, emptying the pistol.
Then Antonio went into the house, got his keys and drove away.
“It’s a terrible family tragedy beyond anything you could imagine,” said defense attorney Philip Lowenthal. “There’s no question Mr. Antonio loved his son.”
Lowenthal asked 2nd Circuit Judge Joel August not to impose the 20-year mandatory-minimum term, saying the prosecution hadn’t presented evidence to prove the pistol was a semi-automatic firearm.
But Deputy Prosecutor Melinda Mendes said that, in finding Antonio guilty, the judge had found that the evidence showed a semi-automatic firearm was used.
Although Antonio asked for his family’s forgiveness, “I haven’t heard him say, ‘I’m sorry I killed my son’ today,” Mendes said. “This tragedy was of the defendant’s own making.”
August said the court received “many, many letters” from family members of Antonio and his wife, with letter writers hoping Antonio wouldn’t receive a lengthy prison sentence.
“This court has virtually no discretion to determine the length of the sentence,” August said.
He said Hawaii law mandates a sentence of life in prison with the possibility of parole for a second-degree murder conviction and a 20-year mandatory minimum term for using a semi-automatic firearm to commit second-degree murder.
August found Antonio guilty of both charges in July.
At the time of the shooting, Antonio had worked as a pressman at The Maui News for 18 years.
His son had graduated from high school and was living at home and working as a stock clerk at Safeway in Kahului.
“Ultimately, this case represents emotion over reason,” August said. “It grew out of extreme anger over perceived disrespect for parental authority and reached a level which no reasonable person in a well-ordered society is prepared to accept or condone. It is truly a tragedy for everyone concerned.”