LIHU‘E — Citing a rule 9 violation, a Fifth Circuit Court judge dismissed a case without prejudice for charges filed against a Kaua‘i Correctional Center inmate accused of sexually assaulting a woman during a work-release program in August of 2018.
Stephen Makanani, 34, who is currently in custody at the Hawala Correctional Facility on O‘ahu, attended Thursday morning’s hearing via a Zoom teleconference.
Makanani’s attorney, Craig De Costa, argued with the state prosecuting attorney that Makanani’s constitutional right to have a speedy and public trial was violated.
Because of COVID-19, there have been no trials conducted in the state of Hawai‘i since mid-March, and the state prosecuting attorney couldn’t generate an explanation from the Sheriff’s office for the delay. One of the reasons, aside from the COVID-19 pandemic, was that the trial was delayed, which he claims also happened during his previous three indictments.
The court ruled against rule 48, which states that a case can be dismissed by the court if a trial is not commenced within six months.
The records indicated that Makanani served 203 days in jail and his lawyer said he suffered psychological pain as a result of his incarceration.
Prosecutors are fighting for Makanani to serve a life sentence for his charges.
The prosecution argued the reason for the delay was because the COVID-19 pandemic prevented trials from being conducted since mid-March.
Makanani entered a plea of not guilty to one count of sexual assault in the first degree for the incident that occurred in August of 2018.
According to a 2019 Garden Island article, after less than a year in prison, Makanani was allowed into a work furlough program, offered by the Hawai’i Department of Public Safety, as “an authorized un-escorted prisoner with a temporary leave of absence from the institution.”
Makanani’s participation in the program came despite what the prosecuting attorney’s office described as “the state’s strong objection” because of Makanani’s relatively extensive criminal history.
Makanani allegedly admitted to having consensual sex and maintained the affair was entirely consensual. According to the 2019 Garden Island newspaper article, the judge found his statements made to a detective were not admissible in court because he was questioned without being advised of his Miranda rights.