Hawaii man pleads no contest to sexually assaulting children

HILO — A Maui farmer has been convicted of sexually assaulting four girls on the Big Island between 1998 and 2007.

Michael Martin Zelko pleaded no contest Friday to 11 counts of third-degree sexual assault, the Hawaii Tribune-Herald reported .

Zelko, 59, was initially charged with multiple counts of first-degree sexual assault and continuous sexual assault of a minor under the age of 14. He pleaded no contest to the lesser charges after reaching an agreement with Big Island prosecutors.

Prosecutors will seek a five-year prison sentence, according to the plea agreement. The Hawaii Paroling Authority will ultimately decide how much time he will serve in prison.

Hilo Circuit Judge Greg Nakamura scheduled Zelko’s sentencing for May 20.

According to court documents, the youngest victim was 5 years old when the abuse started. All the victims under the age of 10.

The judge asked Zelko’s attorney, Michael Green, about the facts in the amended charges in the plea deal.

“You know, we’re not required under a no contest plea to go through the facts,” Green told the judge. “. We’re pleading no contest, but we’re not agreeing that they actually happened.”

Zelko was released on bail until sentencing. The prominent organic farmer held workshops across the state before he was indicted in August 2016.

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Information from: Hawaii Tribune-Herald, http://www.hawaiitribune-herald.com/

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