9 months served before felony acquittal

LIHUE — Nine months.

That’s how long a 34-year-old Lihue woman spent in jail awaiting trial on two felony and two petty misdemeanor charges.

When she finally got the verdict back, Cheri Numazawa was found not guilty of the felonies but guilty of the petty misdemeanors — each of which carries a maximum penalty of 30 days in jail and/or $1,000 fine.

“I am thankful to the court and the members of the jury for their service in this case,” said Shauna Lee Cahill, defense attorney for Numazawa. “My client was properly acquitted of the felony charges as there was a severe lack of evidence in this case.”

Numazawa was originally charged in January. She was found not guilty of felony possession of methamphetamine and unlawful use of drug paraphernalia Sept. 23, but guilty of possessing marijuana and driving without a license.

During the three-day trial, evidence showed that police were looking for a male suspect whose vehicle matched the description of the one Numazawa was driving. When Numazawa was pulled over, an officer observed marijuana in her bra area and discovered her driver’s license had been expired.

A search warrant was obtained for the vehicle and underneath items of clothing, a pipe containing burnt meth residue and a cellphone were found, according to court documents.

But, Cahill said, prosecutors couldn’t produce evidence that Numazawa knew the pipe was in the car, or that she ever touched or used it.

“Prior to the trial, I requested that Ms. Numazawa be released,” Cahill said. “She had family support, a place to live, and a job. However, the Office of the Prosecuting Attorney objected. Ms. Numazawa had to spend nine months in jail before being acquitted of the felony charges.”

Justin Kollar, Kauai prosecuting attorney, said it was proper to keep Numazawa incarcerated while the trial played out.

The “defendant has a history of felony drug arrests, a history of not showing up for court, a history of running from police,” Kollar said. “The Intake Service Center also recommended that bail be confirmed in her case.”

Numazawa was found guilty of failure to appear in 1996 and has six other misdemeanors on her record. She has never been convicted of a felony.

Numazawa will be sentenced for her petty misdemeanors on Jan 14 before Judge Randal Valenciano.

Kollar declined to say what punishment the state will seek.

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