LIHUE — A judge threw out a case against a Waimea man after prosecutors tried to arraign him nearly two years after he allegedly broke into a woman’s home.
“It took them about 16 months to arrest my client,” Kaleb Libre-Palacio’s court-appointed attorney Melinda Mendes told a judge during a court hearing Monday, arguing that prosecutors were responsible for pursuing the case in a timely manner, “and they failed miserably at that.”
Charges against Libre-Palacio, 23, stem from an incident on Sept. 14, 2017, when he was arrested for “unauthorized entry into a dwelling,” according to Kauai Police Department arrest logs.
Libre-Palacio was released pending investigation, and court documents do not show any record of his detention or pretrial proceedings in the case until three months later, in December of that year, when prosecutors filed charges in court.
A warrant was issued for his arrest, but for almost a year and a half, the case was all but forgotten. Then, a few months ago, Libre-Palacio once again ran into police.
The arrest wasn’t even made by officers looking to serve the outstanding warrant, according to Mendes, who said her client was picked up when police stopped him while he was walking on the street and asked for identification.
Once they called dispatch to check Libre-Palacio’s record, police saw the warrant for his arrest and booked him, Mendes explained to Fifth Circuit Court Judge Kathleen Watanabe.
It had been 19 months since the alleged break-in, a period of time Mendes successfully argued was unreasonable and prejudicial toward Libre-Palacio, causing him to suffer “high anxiety and concern over this case” and depriving him of the right to an adequate legal defense because the charges were based on an incident he could no longer remember the details of.
“There were absolutely no verified attempts to serve the bench warrant,” Mendes wrote in a motion to dismiss the months-old case. “The state’s interests in prosecuting a case in which it took about 16 months to serve a bench warrant are far outweighed by fundamental fairness to the defendant and the orderly functioning of our courts.”
Watanabe ordered the case dismissed with prejudice, meaning prosecutors are barred from filing new charges related to the allegations.
Caleb Loehrer, staff writer, can be reached at 245-0441 or firstname.lastname@example.org.