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Hundreds of misdemeanor cases are dismissed due to Hawaii Supreme Court ruling

By Marisa Yamane

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    HONOLULU, Hawaii (KITV) — Hundreds of misdemeanor and petty misdemeanor cases on Oahu have been dismissed or thrown out since December due to a Hawaii Supreme Court decision.

Now, the Office of the Public Defender is asking the Court to dismiss the case in which a teenager reported being sexually assaulted at Ala Moana Center.

A court hearing is scheduled for Wednesday morning in the case to discuss whether to dismiss it.

53-year-old Masachiro Asep is accused of fondling a 17-year-old girl in the service corridor to the Makai Market Food Court at Ala Moana Center on Presidents’ Day. Both had been working in the mall.

The victim and her mother said they want to press charges.

However, the attorneys for the defendant argued in court documents that the criminal complaint was missing either the victim’s signature or a declaration submitted in lieu of an affidavit.

They cite the case State v. Thompson, in which the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled on December 10, 2021 that cases may be dismissed if they do not follow that procedural law.

“This is extremely surprising. I think the community will be very alarmed to hear that this many cases have been dismissed due — not due to the fact they were found innocent, but it’s just due to procedure,” said Michael Kitchens, founder of the anti-crime Facebook group Stolen Stuff Hawaii.

The Honolulu Department of the Prosecuting Attorney is fighting back. It filed a memo on Tuesday in opposition, asking the Court to deny the defendant’s motion to dismiss.

A spokesperson for the prosecutor’s office told KITV4 in a statement: “In the Asep case, we are confident that the complaint will not be dismissed under State v. Thompson.

“A Judicial Determination of Probable Cause has already been reviewed, signed, and filed by the court. We believe that this will allow the complaint against Asep to withstand his motion to dismiss.”

Asep is charged with three counts of sexual assault in the fourth degree, which is a misdemeanor.

“Sexual assault four — that’s a misdemeanor. But to the person, to the victim, to that 17-year-old, that is one of the most traumatizing times in her life,” Kitchens said.

According to the prosecutor’s office, “…approximately 730 misdemeanor and petty misdemeanor cases have been dismissed under the State v. Thompson ruling.

“The majority of these were cases where the defendant was initially arrested and either posted bail or were released by the court on their own recognizance.”

As of Tuesday, Asep was still in custody at the Oahu Community Correctional Center, with bail set at $1,000.

Misdemeanors also include crimes like drunk driving, theft of less than $750, second degree terroristic threatening, and third degree assault.

“Misdemeanors though are a very common item on SSH and it’s something our victims rarely see accountability for, and that’s one of the biggest problems. And I will say that accountability is very important. If we have 730 cases that are being dismissed, then that’s 730 examples where someone who committed a crime is getting away with it,” Kitchens said.

“And when you don’t hold somebody accountable, what happens is they become emboldened, they become more brazen, they begin to believe that hey, I’m not going to get punished for this stuff so I’m just going to keep doing this,” he added.

As for the 730 cases that have recently been dismissed, a spokesman for the prosecutor’s office said they are re-filing cases as appropriate and intend to appeal some of the dismissals.

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