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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, January 29, 2010

Man found not guilty in shooting

By Jim Dooley
Advertiser Staff Writer

A Circuit Court jury yesterday found Joshua Gonda not guilty of multiple attempted murder and firearms charges related to a freeway shooting that left a 16-year-old youth crippled for life.

"There are no winners here," Gonda's lawyer, David Bettencourt, said after the verdict was returned. "There is still a young man crippled for life and kids are still bringing guns to school."

Gonda, 21, remains in custody because he is facing a one-year federal prison term for a drug conviction.

Deputy Prosecutor Scott Bell had little comment outside court other than to say that no witnesses in the trial identified "anyone else but Gonda" as the shooter.

Gonda testified in his own behalf to deny shooting a handgun into another vehicle on Moanalua Freeway in July 2008.

The victim, Roger Curioso, was a passenger in the vehicle that was fired on. A bullet passed through his shoulder to his spinal cord.

Bettencourt argued to the jury that Gonda was blamed for the crime because he was cooperating with police in the investigation of another shooting case, which also crippled a teenager.

Bettencourt said Gonda's reaction to his acquittal was "very muted."

"We've been waiting for this so long, I don't really think it's sunk it yet," the lawyer said.

Gonda has been in custody for 18 months in the shooting case and will be turned over to federal authorities to serve his sentence in the drug case.

"The one-and-a-half years that he just spent in custody is not going to count in this federal sentence," Bettencourt said.

Prosecutor Bell argued during the trial that the shooting was related to earlier violence between youth gangs called BTK (Born to Kill) and INR (Insane Notorious Realists).

Gonda was a passenger in a Honda sedan traveling alongside a Mitsubishi Lancer carrying Curioso and another young man when someone fired a handgun into the Lancer, emptying the weapon.

The driver of the Honda was Nicholas Nichols, convicted in 2008 of robbery, kidnapping and assault in an 'Aiea home invasion that left a 16-year-old man paralyzed by a gunshot wound.