A Fifth Circuit Court jury found a Kapa’a man guilty Wednesday of sexually molesting a young relative over the years 1999, 2000 and 2001.
The jury deliberated for three hours before announcing their decision.
Roy Rita, 38, of the 5000 block of Laipo Road, was indicted by a grand jury last year in three cases, and was standing trial on four charges: One count of continuous sexual assault against a minor under the age of 14; and three counts of attempted sexual assault in the first degree.
Rita was found guilty as charged in count one of the indictment, continued sexual assault of a minor, a Class A felony. In the latter three, he was found guilty of the lesser offense of sexual assault in the third degree, a Class C felony.
He now faces maximum sentences of 20 years for the Class A felony and five years each for the three Class C felonies. As he was convicted of more than one felony at once, the terms could be doubled, and Rita could potentially be imprisoned for 70 years. He is scheduled to be sentenced April 24.
The difference between the original and lesser charges is whether there was sexual contact as opposed to sexual penetration.
Rita was represented by public defender James Itamura, and the state’s case was argued by county deputy prosecutor Russell Goo.
During the trial Rita testifed on his own behalf. He said that between 1999 and 2001, the time period the offenses were alleged to have taken place, his life revolved around caring for about 150 of his fighting chickens and working seven days a week. He said he and the girl were never at the same place or in his room at the same time.
The girl’s videotaped interview recorded by the Child Advocacy Center was kept out of evidence. According to the interview, three incidences occurred, and later the girl told the grand jury there were nine. The details of the incidences changed, too, Itamura said. However, Itamura could not introduce a witness who could testify about the girl’s conflicting statements.
State witness KPD Sgt. Sylvester Oliveira testified that he supervised a videotaped interview between the child and a Child Advocacy Center social worker.
He also said that while searching Rita’s house, he noted the house was “cluttered” and that it was difficult for one person to move around, let alone two, referring to Rita’s large body size.
In his closing statement, prosecuting attorney Goo said the girl lacked a motive for falsely accusing Rita.
The defendent had access to the girl, and used his fighting chickens and a PlayStation videogame player as a “lure,” Goo said.
He referred to the motives of the girl’s aunt and grandmother. The aunt, who has allegiance to her mother-in-law, and the grandmother, who said she didn’t want anything to happen to her son.
Goo said the girl’s differing statements were due to different interviews she had to give to strangers and the girl’s admission she tried to forget everything that happened.
Itamura in his closing argument referred to the conflicting Child Advocacy Center interview and court testimony. In the interview, she said she was pushed onto the bed and locked in, and focused on an air rifle that scared her from running away. In court, she said she was too wrapped up in playing video games to want to leave.
“It doesn’t sound extraordinary to (her) that a person could be sexually molested and still play PlayStation,” Itamura said. The state entered no evidence that the girl played the video games while being molested and was trying to “dissociate” from the events, as Goo claimed.
Itamura said that while the girl was left unsupervised by her parents and undisciplined by her grandparents, she craved attention.
The girl’s aunt testified that she didn’t trust the girl and didn’t want her and her son playing together. The girl’s grandmother stated that the girl would sometimes admit to stealing from Rita’s house.
The girl probably discovered she could get attention when she claims she’s a victim, he said. “She has no idea the huge wheel set into motion when she says these things,” he said.
Goo requested that Judge Nakea order immediate imprisonment of Rita, pointing to the jury’s guilty verdicts, and the risk that Rita might flee, that he is a risk to the community and his prior criminal record.
In 1986, Rita accepted a plea agreement after being indicted for sexual abuse in the first degree and was sentenced to one year in prison.
Itamura asked the judge to consider that Rita neither had the means nor the wherewithal to go anywhere. However, Nakea said he was bound to imprison Rita while he reviews a recent case in which immediate confinement was not ordered for a person found guilty of a different class A felony, though it was later recommended.
Until Nakea finds out if confinement until sentencing is up to the judge’s discretion, Rita will be incarcerated at the Kaua’i Community Correctional Center.
Staff Writer Kendyce Manguchei can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 245-3681 (ext. 252).