Not-guilty plea in sex-assault case

LIHU’E — Members of the media from around the state converged on the new Kaua’i courthouse facility to cover the arraignment of former Kalaheo resident Eugene Saulibio, charged with four counts of sexual assault involving a young girl at Saulibio’s Kalaheo home in 1996.

He pleaded not guilty.

Saulibio, 44, now living in ‘Aiea on O’ahu, appeared yesterday before Fifth Circuit Court Chief Judge George Masuoka, to be arraigned on the felony offenses.

Saulibio’s attorney, Victor J. Bakke, requested that bail be reduced from $80,000 to $40,000.

Bakke said the present bail is a hardship on his client.

Masuoka ordered a bail study be conducted, to see if Saulibio’s bail could be lowered. He remains free on bail. A jury trial is scheduled for Feb. 27.

After the hearing, Bakke made a short statement outside Masuoka’s courtroom.

“Eugene is deeply distressed. He was a member of the community for a long time,” Bakke said.

“But he’s here today because he pleaded not guilty, and we’re going to fight this to the bitter end.”

Bakke said that the case is nine years old, and came as a surprise to his client.

Saulibio did not make a comment. The alleged victim, who was 14 at the time of the purported assault, is living on the Mainland, and is believed to be in her early 20s.

According to court records, Saulibio was indicted by members of a Kaua’i grand jury on four counts of first-degree sexual assault. The alleged offenses took place between July 1, 1996 and Aug. 31, 1996.

If convicted on all four counts, Saulibio could be sent to prison for up to 80 years. The two-page indictment was filed Nov. 21.

The indictment was filed after Saulibio recently settled a court case on O’ahu where he was the victim of sexual assault. In that case, he claimed that he was sexually assaulted when he was 15 years old by the Rev. Joseph Bukoski III in 1976.

Bukoski is a Koloa native now living on O’ahu.

On Nov. 8, a settlement was reached between Saulibio, Bukoski and leaders of Bukoski’s Catholic church order, the Fathers of the Sacred Hearts. A jury trial was scheduled to begin the day before.

According to court records, Bukoski will pay $50 a month for the next 10 years to Saulibio, or to members of his family if Saulibio dies before the 10 years are up.

Bukoski will also not be allowed to work with children, according to court records.

Additionally, according to court records, the Fathers of the Sacred Hearts will publicly apologize to Saulibio by running that apology in the Hawaii Catholic Herald, a weekly Catholic newspaper.

Bukoski also apologized for what he did to Saulibio in the summer of 1976. In a letter, Bukoski wrote, “I am truly sorry for all you have gone through and suffered as a result of my actions. I should have apologized sooner.”

The financial terms of the settlement between Saulibio and the Fathers of the Sacred Hearts were not disclosed.

Saulibio filed his lawsuit in 2003. He claimed that Bukoski gave him drugs and alcohol before sexually abusing him.

The abuse took place in July 1976, when Saulibio was living at a seminary in Kane’ohe on O’ahu, and where Bukoski was then a brother studying to become a priest.

Saulibio was a well-known, youth-basketball coach on Kaua’i.

  • Cynthia Kaneshiro, staff writer, may be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 252) or ckaneshiro@kauaipubco.com.
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