Man who fled Hawaii psychiatric hospital pleads not guilty

  • FILE - In this Nov. 17, 2017, file photo, escaped hospital patient Randall Saito points to a guard as he sits in an inmate visitor's booth at San Joaquin County Jail before a scheduled court hearing in French Camp, Calif. Court documents say Saito, who escaped from a Hawaii psychiatric hospital and flew to California, was caught with two high-quality fake IDs, two cellphones and more than $6,000 in cash. (AP Photo/Terry Chea, File)

HONOLULU — A man who escaped from a Hawaii psychiatric hospital and flew to California will stay behind bars instead of going back to the facility he was sent after being acquitted by reason of insanity for a woman’s 1979 killing, his attorney said Tuesday.

Attorney Michael Green said Randall Saito’s family does not plan on bailing him out of jail, where he participated in a court hearing via video but did not speak. Green entered a not-guilty plea to an escape charge on his client’s behalf.

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Saito was caught in Stockton, California, in November, days after walking out of Hawaii State Hospital. He had two high-quality fake IDs, two cellphones and more than $6,000 cash, prosecutors said.

At the hearing, Deputy Hawaii Attorney General Kory Young asked the judge to deny bail, increase it from $500,000 or require it be paid only in cash to prevent Saito from returning to the hospital. That’s where he would go if he posted bail. Saito’s family also wants to ensure he doesn’t go back to the hospital, Green said.

Judge Collette Garibaldi ruled that his $500,000 must be posted in cash.

Officials are still investigating how he was able to escape, including where he got the money and other supplies. If he returned to the hospital, it would be impossible to keep him away from potential witnesses, hospital Administrator William May wrote in a letter to the court.

Saito plotted his escape with a banned cellphone, Young said in documents.

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“The escape is obvious,” Green told reporters outside court, but it’s now a matter of working something out with prosecutors.

A trial is scheduled for March.