Butt slap leads to slammer

A 5th Circuit Court judge sentenced an Eleele man to one year of probation and 30 days in jail this week for “slapping two women on their posteriors.”

The 41 year-old defendant said “he thought the women were friends but that he was wrong.” It gave the judge pause to ask if he understood the nature of the two fourth-degree sexual assault charges that he pleaded no contest to in July.

“Yes,” he said.

Judge Kathleen Watanabe wasn’t so sure. She said he must understand that unwanted sexual contact, including grabbing someone’s buttocks against their will, is considered criminal contact under the law.

To think this action would be acceptable behavior among friends presents a perspective that the defendant thought the charge to be extreme. The judge said the defendant must know that there is no scenario where this unwanted action is appropriate.

The defendant’s defense attorney said the incident was “regrettable” and that although he did initially “minimize his actions,” he now understands what he did wrong “after a number of discussions.”

The deputy prosecutor pointed out that groping occurred with one of the victims, and that “ogling” and stalking behavior occurred with the other. One of the victims was granted a three-year injunction against harassment against the defendant in 2012.

As it stands, the defendant was given a break by being sentenced under 707-733(1)(b), which does not require him to register with the state sex offender registry. Had he been sentenced under 707-733(1)(a) then he would have had to register.

The crime of fourth-degree sexual assault is a misdemeanor offense under Hawaii Revised Statutes.

Under section (a) the offender is charged with knowingly subjecting another person to sexual contact by compulsion or causing a person to have sexual contact by compulsion.  

Under section (b) the offender knowingly exposes the person’s genitals to another person under circumstances in which the actor’s conduct is likely to alarm or put them in fear of bodily injury.

Under section (c) the defendant knowingly trespasses on property for the purpose of subjecting another person to surreptitious surveillance for sexual gratification.

The defendant’s crime fits the criteria for section (a), however, the circumstance of his case allowed him to plea to the charge as a section (b) misdemeanor offense.

The judge denied a $2,800 restitution request from one of the victims for compensation of lost work wages and treatment.

There was a lack of foundation and no documentation to show.

According to court discussion, the defendant seems to have exhibited behavior that had already upset his victims.

The judge ordered him to stay away from the victims, to undergo a behavioral assessment and not to view or possess any pornographic material.

• Island Crime Beat is a column that reflects on the current events and issues regarding the police, courts and criminal justice system of Kauai.

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