HONOLULU – An Australian tourist charged with third-degree negligent homicide in a Hawaii personal watercraft crash that killed a California teen pleaded no contest Thursday.
Tyson Dagley softly mumbled the plea on the misdemeanor charge in Circuit Court in Honolulu while standing next to his attorney, Walter Rodby.
Rodby told Judge Richard Perkins the 20-year-old doesn't intend to return to Australia before he's sentenced Sept. 5.
Dagley was released earlier this week after posting $100,000 bail. He faces up to a year in prison and a $2,000 fine.
Investigators said Dagley was standing on his rented watercraft before it hit 16-year-old Kristen Fonseca's watercraft from behind Aug. 5. They said he was looking at his girlfriend, who was taking video and photos, and he wasn't paying attention to where he was going.
Fonseca, of Vacaville, Calif., died the next day. Her family recently filed a lawsuit against Dagley and Aloha Jet Ski, the company that rented the watercrafts involved.
Prosecutor Scott Bell asked that Dagley surrender his passport, which he said is at the Oahu Community Correctional Center, where Dagley was held before posting bail. Friends and family banded together to come up with the bail money, Rodby said.
Bell called Dagley a potential flight risk. Rodby objected, saying: "His passport is his personal belonging."
Since Dagley doesn't intend to leave Hawaii before sentencing, Perkins said he must turn over the passport to the court in the meantime.
The decision to plead no contest came after a review of the police report and video footage of the crash, which showed Dagley "wasn't looking straight ahead," Rodby said after the hearing.
Fonseca's stepfather and mother hope to be in Hawaii to attend the sentencing and speak in court, said their Honolulu attorney, Rick Fried. "No one was surprised that he (Dagley) decided not to go trial," Fried said.
Rodby said he'll ask that Dagley receive credit for the 12 days he spent in custody and not receive any additional jail time.
"There's no rule against standing on a jet ski," Rodby said, noting his client was riding the watercraft "as it was designed to be ridden."
"He wasn't doing anything unusual," Rodby said.
Dagley and his parents declined to comment as they left the courthouse.
Meanwhile, Dagley's girlfriend, Natasha Ryan, 21, remains charged with hindering his prosecution. She is free on $500 bail.
A police report said Ryan told investigators Dagley was sitting and looking straight ahead before the collision, and that she didn't see the crash.
However, a forensic computer examiner recovered two deleted videos from the memory stick in Ryan's camera, which showed the crash. The report said that in the video, Dagley appears to be standing on the watercraft.
Ryan is scheduled to appear in Honolulu District Court on Sept. 7 for the misdemeanor charge. Rodby, who also is representing Ryan, declined to comment on her case.