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Three lava emergency-related criminal cases resolved

A 51-year-old Opihikao man was acquitted of robbing two men who were photographing lava during last year’s Kilauea volcano eruption.

After a so-called stipulated facts bench trial on Oct. 2, Hilo Circuit Judge Henry Nakamoto ruled Edward Wilson suffered from temporary mental incapacity and wasn’t legally responsible for his actions.

The judge acquitted Wilson of the gunpoint robbery of a 29-year-old Opihikao man and a 37-year-old California man on the evening of May 30, 2018, on Kamalii Road in Leilani Estates.

The men told police they were robbed by a pair of men, one who brandished a handgun and another who demanded their belongings.

Police said Wilson was in possession of items taken in the robbery, including camera equipment, when he was arrested a short time later. He had been charged with two counts each of first-degree robbery, first-degree theft, first-degree terroristic threatening, plus the use of a firearm in the commission of a felony.

Police never arrested a second suspect, the alleged gunman.

Wilson is free on conditional release and has a review hearing at 9:30 a.m. Dec. 6.

A similar verdict was rendered in an unrelated burglary case that took place in Leilani Estates during last year’s lava emergency.

Nakamoto on June 7 acquitted Alexandru Stingu-Dragomir, the first individual charged with burglary during the state of emergency, also ruling he wasn’t legally responsible for his actions because of temporary mental incapacity.

Stingu-Dragomir, who faced three counts of burglary of a dwelling during a civil defense emergency and another of burglary of a building during a civil defense emergency, was previously found unfit to proceed. But after a subsequent ruling of fitness, Nakamoto acquitted the 30-year-old Romanian-born U.S. citizen following a stipulated facts bench trial.

The burglaries all took place May 9, 2018, with two of the home burglaries and the building burglary occurring at the same address, 13-3564 Moku St., and the other home burglary occurring at 13-3350 Moku St.

The 13-3564 Moku St. homeowner returned to check on his property and was alerted to Stingu-Dragomir’s presence by a 12-pack of Bud Light beer outside the home.

Stingu-Dragomir was released conditionally from custody, but was discharged from conditional release following a review hearing Sept. 6.

And in a third case during the lava emergency unrelated to either of the above cases, a misdemeanor conviction was erased from the record of a then-62-year-old Kapoho man who drove at a high rate of speed through a lava checkpoint on Government Beach Road on June 2, 2018.

Allan K. Bartels pleaded no contest Nov. 5, 2018, to obstructing government operations and disobedience to police officers, both misdemeanors.

Nakamoto deferred acceptance of Bartels’ plea on the condition Bartels stay out of additional legal trouble for a year. Bartels complied with that condition.

Email John Burnett at
Source: Hawaii Tribune Herald

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