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State briefs for April 12

Ex-Maui inmate gets $10K in settlement

HONOLULU — A former inmate who says officials didn’t protect her against a guard convicted of sexually assaulting her is settling a lawsuit for $10,000.

The Associated Press doesn’t usually identify those who say they are victims of sexual assault. The woman was in a work furlough program in 2014 that allowed her to leave the Maui jail during the day. Former corrections officer James Siugpiyemal threatened to remove her from the program if she didn’t comply with his demands for sex, the lawsuit said.

She secretly recorded one of the encounters in her car, which was played at his 2017 trial. A jury found him guilty of sex assault. He’s scheduled to be released from prison in 2026. A parole consideration hearing is scheduled for 2021.

A trial for the lawsuit was scheduled to begin Monday, but claims against the state were thrown out, said the woman’s attorney, Myles Breiner.

“Consequently, we very reluctantly accepted a nominal amount of $10,000,” he said.

The state attorney general’s office argued that the state is immune from a federal lawsuit, arguing the lawsuit fails to cite any violations of the U.S. Constitution. Breiner argued that the state waived that immunity because it receives money from the federal government for the Prison Rape Elimination Act.

A judge granted the state’s motion.

Man agrees to plea agreement in beating death

HONOLULU — A man charged in the beating death of a homeless man agreed to a plea deal and will testify against his co-defendant, a prosecutor said.

Chu Lun K. Aiona, 39, pleaded guilty in state court to the reduced charge of first-degree assault.

Aiona and 36-year-old Nicholas Payne attacked 46-year-old Joey Nguyen near the Hawaii Convention Center in August 2018, police said.

Nguyen died from blunt force head injury, the Honolulu medical examiner said.

Payne is scheduled to stand trial on a murder charge in June.

Aiona’s plea deal includes a maximum 10-year prison term and an agreement to testify against Payne, according to Deputy Prosecutor Kelsi Guerra.

If he was found guilty, Aiona would have faced life without parole because he has at least two prior felony convictions, officials said.

Aiona has felony convictions on Maui and the Big Island for drug possession, auto thefts and break-ins and criminal property damage, according to court records.

Both men were in custody in lieu of $1 million bail.

Virgin Orbit satellite-launching plane to take off from Guam

HONOLULU — Virgin Orbit, owned by British billionaire Richard Branson, plans to launch small satellites from a rocket released by a customized Boeing 747 that will take off from a site on Guam. It has another site in California.

The company said Thursday the U.S. Air Force will allow it to take off from Anderson Air Force Base. Guam’s international airport is seeking a Federal Aviation Administration license to host launches.

Payloads will weigh up to 1,000 pounds and orbit the equator at an altitude of about 310 miles.

The satellites will be for communications, research and other uses. The U.S. military is expected to be a customer.
Source: Hawaii Tribune Herald

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