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Theft cases dominate Kaua‘i court docket

LIHU‘E – Kaua‘i Fifth Circuit Judge Kathleen Watanabe heard various burglary and theft cases on Tuesday, Nov. 28, as some defendants pleaded guilty, others awaited the results of their mental fitness evaluations, while others failed to appear at all.

The cases adjudicated on Tuesday morning started with Marissa Aceret, who has been charged with one count of burglary in the first degree, a class B felony, after allegedly breaking into the residence of Ralph Gordon Oswald in Kealia on March 26, 2022.

Aceret, who appeared via Zoom from state psychiatric hospital Kahi Mahola, was scheduled for a hearing following the results of her mental fitness examinations. Watanabe said reports had been filed by three different doctors, and all three had differing opinions on whether or not Aceret was fit to proceed in court.

The case was pushed to January after her court-appointed attorney Marissa Agena said she only recently became involved in the case and needed time to discuss with Aceret given the “reports are all over the place.” Aceret’s next court date was scheduled for Jan. 9, 2024, at 8:45 a.m. Court records show Aceret has pleaded not guilty.

Travis Miguel also appeared via Zoom from the same hospital, for a status review of a case that has been ongoing since early 2020. Like Aceret, Miguel has been charged with burglary in the first degree, after he allegedly entered the Koloa residence of Miana Korn and Cideon Etison on Jan. 19, 2020.

In court, Watanabe granted Miguel an additional 90 days of hospitalization for treatment and stabilization upon the recommendation of a doctor at Kahi Mahola. His next court date was scheduled for Feb. 27, 2024, at 8:45 a.m.

Kyle Laursen, a defendant in another case, failed to appear in court for a report regarding his fitness to proceed on charges of burglary in the first degree, as well as criminal trespass in the first degree. Laursen allegedly entered Pali Nani LLC in Kilauea on Oct. 25, 2020, “with the intention to commit therein a crime against a person or property.

State social worker Amanda Luning, who appeared via Zoom, said Laursen “was declining to attend today’s court.” Watanabe questioned why Bentley Adams, his attorney, had also failed to appear.

“I can see (his attorney) is declining to attend as well,” Watanabe said. “Without Mr. Adams here, it’s difficult to see how he wants to proceed.”

According to Watanabe, Laursen has repeatedly refused to attend hearings. The matter was scheduled to be continued again on Dec. 5 at 8:45 a.m. via Zoom.

Misdemeanor for not wearing a mask

Darren Taylor appeared in court for an Aug. 17, 2020, incident when he was charged with first-degree criminal property damage, second-degree attempted assault, third-degree assault and third-degree reckless endangering.

Court records show he was also charged with “disobedience of mayor’s governor proclamations during emergency management period” in the COVID-era case for failing to wear a face covering within 6 feet of people who didn’t live in the immediate household.

The document does not say where the incident occurred, but his decision to neglect to wear a face mask during the incident is a misdemeanor, meaning he could face up to one year in prison and/or a $5,000 fine for that charge alone.

Watanabe noted Taylor had failed to appear for a Nov. 6 court-ordered doctor’s appointment, which meant the report could not be prepared. Taylor told Watanabe he had broken his phone just before the scheduled appointment and called the situation “very unlucky” and “misfortunate.”

“I don’t know if it has anything to do with misfortune,” replied Watanabe, saying missing a court hearing is the fastest way to get into jail.

Watanabe advised Taylor to attend the appointment, and his next court date was scheduled for Jan. 2, 2024, at 9 a.m.

Watanabe also addressed the bail status of Ryan Rycewicz, who has been charged with violating an order for protection, burglary in the first degree, and unauthorized entry into a dwelling in the second degree.

The incident revolves around Rycewicz entering the residence of Brit Bjorklund-Goodman in Kalaheo, in violation of a nondomestic abuse order for protection. Watanabe granted a motion to revoke Rycewicz’s bail, which had been set at $5,000.

‘They took my clothes’

Pono Lanning, a 37-year-old man with years of criminal convictions, pleaded guilty to charges surrounding illegally entering the Ono Bar and Grill in Kapa‘a on Aug. 15, 2023. He was originally charged with burglary in the second degree, which was reduced to burglary in the third degree, a misdemeanor.

Lanning was sentenced to up to 60 days in jail in the plea agreement, to be served concurrently with probation, an order to stay away from Ono’s Bar and Grill, and restitution fees to pay for losses caused by his conduct.

Despite pleading guilty, Lanning told Watanabe that the theft was committed by a nearly identical person who was dressed in his clothes.

“I wasn’t there, but somebody else did … They took my clothes and they went over there,” he said. “So I stand strong and firm on that.”

Watanabe then asked why he was pleading guilty, as she asked him to read his guilty statement out loud and say whether it was accurate.

“It is,” Lanning said, and the court continued with the guilty plea.

Lanning was granted supervised release, as he had already served a “few days over” the 60 days of jail time that the state was recommending.

Leaving the state

Another man, Stephen Beeman, agreed to leave the state in a plea deal after being found with methamphetamine on Dec. 25, 2020. Beeman was charged with one count of promoting a dangerous drug in the third degree for the Christmas Day incident, as well as one count of prohibited acts related to drug paraphernalia.

He was represented by court-appointed attorney Renee Arndt in court on Tuesday, who said that Beeman had booked a plane ticket to his home state of Oregon and was ready to leave Hawai‘i on Thursday, Nov. 30, as part of the agreement.

Watanabe said the court is not ordering him to leave the state, which would be in violation of his constitutional right to travel.

“Certainly, the court is not violating any provision of the constitution. But just recognizing that that’s the agreement between the two parties,” said Watanabe.

Beeman pleaded guilty to the amended charges, which were reduced to promoting a dangerous drug in the fourth degree, which is a misdemeanor. The second charge was dismissed.

Watanabe did not place Beeman on probation due to his agreement with the state to leave Hawai‘i for Oregon on Thursday, and Beeman agreed to pay a relatively minor fee of $105.


Emma Grunwald, reporter, can be reached 808-652-0638 or
Source: The Garden Island

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