Ex-guard gets 10-year prison sen­tence for sex­ual as­sault

The Maui News - - FRONT PAGE - By LILA FUJIMOTO Staff Writer

WAILUKU — A 10-year prison term was or­dered Tues­day for a for­mer jail guard con­victed of sex­u­ally as­sault­ing an in­mate while he was work­ing at the Maui Com­mu­nity Cor­rec­tional Cen­ter three years ago.

James Si­ug­piye­mal took ad­van­tage of his job as an adult cor­rec­tions of­fi­cer and “vi­o­lated this po­si­tion of trust to es­tab­lish a sex­ual re­la­tion­ship” with the in­mate, said Deputy Pros­e­cu­tor Iwalani Gas­men.

“This was not based on love but was based on his ex­ploita­tion of her,” Gas­men said in ar­gu­ing for the prison term.

“He used her. He used her for his own sex­ual grat­i­fi­ca­tion, even de­spite hav­ing a wife and fam­ily.”

In a trial in July, Si­ug­piye­mal, 44, was found guilty of sec­ond-de­gree sex­ual as­sault and two counts of third-de­gree sex­ual as­sault of the 36-year-old Ki­hei woman.

She video­taped a sex­ual en­counter be­tween her and Si­ug­piye­mal on Aug. 11, 2014, in her car at the Maui Trop­i­cal Plan­ta­tion in Waikapu. At the time, she was a work fur­lough in­mate at the Wailuku jail.

The woman re­ported that Si­ug­piye­mal had threat­ened to have her work fur­lough priv­i­leges taken away af­ter he saw a photo of her wear­ing a bikini that she had posted on Face­book. He called her and the two ex­changed text mes­sages be­fore she re­ported hav­ing sex­ual con­tact with Si­ug­piye­mal on July 31, 2014, and Aug. 11, 2014.

Dur­ing the sec­ond in­ci­dent, the woman said she turned on a cam­era in her car to make the video be­cause she didn’t think any­one would be­lieve her.

“You were bank­ing on the fact that you were a cor­rec­tions of­fi­cer and peo­ple are go­ing to be­lieve you,” the woman said, ap­pear­ing by video­con­fer­ence for Si­ug­piye­mal’s sen­tenc­ing Tues­day. “I’m just a drug ad­dict . . .

“At the end of the day, no­body did be­lieve what I said be­cause you were ac­quit­ted on the first time . . . and you know for a fact it hap­pened,” she said.

She was re­fer­ring to jury ver­dicts find­ing Si­ug­piye­mal not guilty of two other charges of sec­ond-de­gree sex­ual as­sault.

“They might not have be­lieved what I said, but they be­lieved what they saw,” the woman

said. “I just hope at some point you can take re­spon­si­bil­ity and ac­count­abil­ity in some way for your ac­tions.”

While not­ing that he didn’t have any spe­cific in­for­ma­tion, 2nd Cir­cuit Judge Joseph Car­doza said the not-guilty ver­dicts weren’t nec­es­sar­ily a re­jec­tion of what the vic­tim said in her tes­ti­mony. He said the jury ap­peared to pay “very close at­ten­tion” to some le­gal def­i­ni­tions in those charges.

De­fense at­tor­ney Richard Gronna, who was ap­pointed to rep­re­sent Si­ug­piye­mal af­ter the trial, ar­gued for pro­ba­tion for the de­fen­dant.

Si­ug­piye­mal, who has no prior ar­rests or con­vic­tions, has al­ready spent 11 months in jail and would have to reg­is­ter as a sex of­fender, Gronna said.

Be­cause he is not a U.S. cit­i­zen, Si­ug­piye­mal will face de­por­ta­tion to the Fed­er­ated States of Mi­crone­sia, Gronna said.

Si­ug­piye­mal is the son of a chief on a small atoll of less than 200 peo­ple in Yap, said Pat O’Brien, a San Diego, Calif., res­i­dent who spoke in sup­port of Si­ug­piye­mal at his sen­tenc­ing.

“He was raised as a re­spon­si­ble leader, and he played that role up un­til this in­ci­dent,” O’Brien said.

He said Si­ug­piye­mal had joined the Yap Po­lice De­part­ment and was man­ag­ing the U.S. cen­sus there.

“He will never be free of this stigma,” O’Brien said. “He’s lost all sta­tus he once en­joyed.”

But he said Si­ug­piye­mal could help res­i­dents who need to move in the next few years from the is­land be­cause of ris­ing sea lev­els.

Gronna said that the vic­tim could have talked to jail staff about her con­cerns when Si­ug­piye­mal first ap­proached her about her Face­book page or when they ex­changed text mes­sages. “I think the de­fen­dant would have been dealt with ap­pro­pri­ately,” Gronna said.

As po­lice be­gan an in­ves­ti­ga­tion, Si­ug­piye­mal re­signed from his job Oct. 9, 2014, and left the state, of­fi­cials said.

Gronna said Si­ug­piye­mal hadn’t been ap­proached by law en­force­ment be­fore he re­turned to Yap to help his fam­ily.

But Gas­men said Si­ug­piye­mal had been placed on ad­min­is­tra­tive leave from his job Oct. 3, 2014. He paid $1,634 to change his plane ticket so he could leave Oct. 9, 2014, a day ear­lier than his orig­i­nal ticket, Gas­men said.

She said it took two years for the state to have Si­ug­piye­mal brought back from Yap to face the charges.

“Sex­ual as­saults in state cor­rec­tional fa­cil­i­ties are dras­ti­cally un­der­re­ported and rarely brought to trial,” she said.

Si­ug­piye­mal didn’t tes­tify dur­ing his trial.

Speak­ing in court Tues­day, he said he wanted to re­turn to Yap to help his fam­ily, in­clud­ing his wife and par­ents.

“I re­al­ize what I did was wrong, and I can­not re­verse my ac­tion,” he said. “For that, I would like to apol­o­gize to (the vic­tim) and her fam­ily for all the pain I have caused.”

In sen­tenc­ing Si­ug­piye­mal to prison, Judge Car­doza said he weighed sev­eral fac­tors, in­clud­ing the de­fen­dant’s his­tory, the na­ture of the of­fense and the need for the sen­tence to re­flect the se­ri­ous­ness of the of­fense.

“At the end of the day, this is ex­tremely se­ri­ous,” Car­doza said.

Lila Fujimoto can be reached at lfu­ji­moto@mauinews.com.

The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

For­mer Maui Com­mu­nity Cor­rec­tional Cen­ter cor­rec­tions of­fi­cer James Si­ug­piye­mal turns to­ward fam­ily mem­bers in the court­room af­ter be­ing sen­tenced to 10 years in prison Tues­day af­ter­noon for sex­u­ally as­sault­ing an in­mate three years ago.

The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

For­mer Maui Com­mu­nity Cor­rec­tional Cen­ter jail guard of­fi­cer James Si­ug­piye­mal lis­tens to the prose­cu­tion make a case for a 10-year sen­tence Tues­day.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.