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Alleged sex assault victim, 80, finishes testimony

Jury trial continued Wednesday for a 21-year-old man accused of sexually assaulting an elderly woman in 2019 at a South Kohala campground.

Zeth Browder, who was 18 at the time of the alleged incident June 15, 2019, at Spencer Beach Park, is charged with two counts each first-degree sexual assault and third-degree sexual assault and one count each first-degree burglary, kidnapping and tampering with evidence.

The victim, now 80 years old, finished her testimony, the lead detective and interviewing detective in the case took the stand and a sexual assault nurse examiner (SANE) testified via Zoom.

Deputy Public Defender James Greenberg continued to question the victim about inconsistencies in statements she gave to police, nurse examiner and grand jury. When questioned, the victim repeatedly said “I am telling the truth, I don’t recall or I was scared he was going to kill me.” Other times when presented with conflicting testimony she said she might have made a mistake in her statements.

Hawaii Police Department Detective Clarence Acob performed the video interview with the victim and stated she picked Browder out of a photo line-up. When asked about other evidence in the case, Acob said that was not part of his investigation. His only assignment was to interview the alleged victim, then age 78.

The lead detective in the case, Calvin Delaries testified he instructed another detective to recover Browder’s clothes for evidence while he was at the Kealakehe cellblock. He said Browder’s shirt and shorts were recovered, but not his underwear. They searched the cell, but the underwear was not found.

Delaries said he checked the surveillance video and saw Browder sit on the floor and pull something from the paper pants he was given. He said the video shows Browder sitting on the toilet, shoving his hands between his legs and into the toilet, then flushing a few times. Delaries could not provide a copy of the video because of technical issues.

Delaries also said he did not go to the crime scene, however, another detective did. When asked what evidence was collected from the victim’s tent and Browder’s campsite, he said he did not know what evidence was found. Greenberg asked if Delaries closed the case on July 3, a little over two weeks after the incident, before DNA analysis was returned, to which the detective answered “yes.”

Last to testify via Zoom was Misty Davis, the SANE nurse. She was allowed to testify remotely after Browder waived his constitutional right to confront a witness face-to-face. The trial was nearly postponed, and even dismissed, when the witness was unable to appear in person for her testimony.

Davis testified as to the statements the victim made to her as well as the exam she performed on the victim. She noted bruising and abrasions, as well as petechiae (pinpoint round spots that appear on the skin as a result of small blood vessels bleeding) on areas of the victim’s body including arms, legs, face, and breasts. She also observed trauma to the inside of the victim’s mouth as well as genital bruising. She said she took buccal swabs from the victim, and also obtained swabs from her breasts, face, and genitals.

Later that day, after a court order was received, she also obtained samples from Browder at the police station.

Testimony from the DNA analysis is expected today.

First-degree sexual assault and kidnapping are class A felonies punishable by up to 20 years imprisonment; first-degree burglary is a class B felony that carries a 10-year sentence; and third-degree sexual assault in a class C felony punishable by five years behind bars. Evidence tampering is a misdemeanor offense

Because prosecutors intend to seek enhanced sentencing measures if Browder is convicted of two or more the felony counts he faces longer terms behind bars. Such enhancement would mean a life sentence with the possibility of parole for the class A felonies and double the time behind bars for the class B and C felonies.
Source: Hawaii Tribune Herald

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