Mental exam next for man accused of statue arson

LIHU’E — An ‘Ele’ele man accused of desecration and of committing a hate crime in March for trying to ignite a statue at a Hanapepe Buddhist temple will undergo a mental-health exam.

Chico Santiago’s jury trial that was scheduled to begin yesterday was put off until he can be examined by three doctors in what is known as a three-member panel.

Richard Gronna, Santiago’s attorney, indicated that his client has mental-health problems.

Gronna pointed out that there may be a defense of not guilty by reason of insanity.

It would be wise and prudent to do a mental-health exam due to the nature of the offense, to find out what was going on in his mind on that particular day, said Gronna.

County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Ken Norelli said Santiago’s evaluation would be on his mental status at the time of the offense, and not on Santiago’s competency to stand trial.

Circuit Court Judge Kathleen Watanabe OK’d the exam.

Santiago allegedly damaged a statue at the Kauai Soto Zen Temple Zenshuji in Hanapepe in March.

According to court records, Santiago was indicted May 16 on two counts, of desecration and second-degree, criminal-property damage that amounted to more than $1,500.

According to the two-page indictment, Santiago could also be subject to an extended prison sentence of 10 years if he is convicted of the criminal-property-damage count.

Second-degree criminal-property damage carries a maximum prison term of five years.

Additionally, Santiago could be subject to being sentenced as a hate-crime offender. According to the indictment, Santiago intentionally damaged property at the temple because of hostility toward those who go there, their nationality, religion or national origin.

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