A violent inmate who fled from a prison van previously swam across an estuary to avoid arrest.
David Lothien was put into an unlocked prison van but was not handcuffed despite his tendency to run from police.
Lothien left his unlocked, segregated compartment and stepped out of a prison van as it pulled into a Dannevirke petrol station because the back door was not locked.
The 21-year-old Hastings man was being transported from Spring Hill Prison in Waikato to Hawke's Bay Regional Prison via Manawatu on April 17.
After jumping from the van, Lothien ran down a nearby track and hitchhiked to Hastings.
Police nabbed him as he watched a rugby match at Napier's Park Island sports fields four days later.
It was the second time Lothien had escaped from custody. He tried to swim across a Napier estuary to avoid police after being arrested outside a strip of Napier bars in 2011. He was soon recaptured.
Lothien appeared for sentence in the Napier District Court today on a charge of escaping custody and assault with intent to injure.
At the time of his escape, he had been in custody after pleading guilty to the assault. On January 25, Lothien was watching stockcar racing with friends in Rotorua when he punched a man in the face. His victim lost the sight in his right eye.
In a victim impact statement read to the court, Peter O'Sullivan said the "gutless, drunken, unprovoked" attack had turned his life upside down.
At the time of the attack, Mr O'Sullivan had been trying to get his life back on track after his wife died and he suffered a heart attack. He bought himself a motorhome and was travelling around the motorsport circuit as a much needed summer holiday.
The ramifications of losing his sight in one eye hit him hard as he waited for surgery at Tauranga Hospital.
"The future looked bleak."
Mr O'Sullivan relies on ACC payments because he cannot work or drive. He cannot ride a bike due to his loss of balance and has to take pain killers everyday to live with the"relentless" pain.
"The loss of independence is crippling."
Crown prosecutor Joshua Lucas said the victim not only lost his eye but a large part of his livelihood.
Lawyer Amit Malik said Lothien was remorseful for throwing the single punch. He said that Lothien acted on impulse, such as writing to another media outlet and blaming the Corrections Department for not securing the prison van, from which he escaped.
Corrections is investigating the incident.
Judge Bridget Mackintosh said the "sideshow" of Lothien's escape took away from the assault, which Lothien committed while on bail. Lothien had six previous convictions for assault.
He was sentenced to two years' and five months' imprisonment. Judge Mackintosh gave Lothien his first warning under the three strikes legislation.
Lothien's girlfriend, Renee Cross, 29, was convicted last month of assisting him after his escape, and was sentenced to 150 hours' community work.
- The Dominion Post
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