WHT editorial: Justice served. Now serve it again

Learning that Tyron Sigrah was sentenced Tuesday to up to 20 years in prison came with a sigh of relief.

The teenage rapist — not allegedly, not reportedly, but forever truly a rapist — was handed his fate by 3rd Circuit Court Judge Robert D.S. Kim.

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“What happened to you should have never happened to anyone,” the judge told the victim Tuesday during the sentencing. “As long as I wear this robe, I will make sure it doesn’t.”

When the judge’s gavel came down, it marked a milestone in a case that has had far too few of them.

Sigrah was one of two teens involved in the Sept. 3, 2016, attack at the Old Kona Airport Park’s soccer field, just north of the Kona Community Aquatics Center.

The second suspect was identified as Samuel Latrik after a grand jury indicted the 18-year-old. His trial date is set for next month and his fate isn’t far behind Sigrah’s.

Prosecutors said that Sigrah, who was 15 at the time, and Latrik, who was 17 at the time, held the woman against her will, beat her and took turns raping her. The attack only stopped after a passing Good Samaritan chased the cowards off. Yes, cowards. Sigrah and the other suspect attacked a female but ran away when confronted by one guy.

The victim was taken to Kona Community Hospital where she was treated for a broken nose, an exacerbated back injury and badly bruised ribs.

Then began a long wait.

Shortly after the attack, the boys were arrested, but released without charges pending further investigation.

Community tension was taut because the boys were walking free for 15 months as the investigation was underway. Sigrah was a student at Kealakehe High School at the time, but top school officials told West Hawaii Today they weren’t aware of a student being involved in a sexual assault investigation.

Residents gathered to wave signs to raise awareness about the reported attack and other issues in the community, as well as to protest what appeared to be inaction in the police investigation.

Investigations take time.

But that doesn’t make waiting 15 months any less anxious. As the months stretched on, it became somewhat worrisome — so the case was never too far from WHT’s mind.

Even before charges were filed against both teens, reporters repeatedly talked to police, attorneys, parents, school officials and documented the investigation’s testing timeline for DNA and forensics.

Last August and September, WHT wrote stories on the progress of the investigation as the attack neared and then passed its one-year anniversary. And it was with satisfaction that we reported around that same time, August or September, that Deputy Prosecutor Sheri Lawson filed paperwork to move the case from juvenile to circuit court, where Sigrah was the first to be tried as an adult. He was eventually charged in November 2017 and Latrik was then charged in January.

If public reporting didn’t play a role in where we are today, it certainly didn’t hamper it.

We wrote that last December in an editorial, and feel that way today just as strongly. And after two years, seeing Kim’s sentence Tuesday was witnessing justice served.

“The victim is going to suffer the sheer savagery of this attack for the rest of her life,” Kim told the court Tuesday. “This is not children. This is beyond child’s play.”

The detailed terms of Sigrah’s 20-year indeterminate sentence will be set later by the Hawaii Paroling Authority. As a young offender, he could serve only eight years before he’s free again.

We’ll be there to find out what they decide. No part in this savage attack should slip quietly into the shadows. It devastated an innocent family and scarred a community.

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But before before then, Latrik is scheduled for jury trial on Oct. 23.

His fate is sure to follow Sigrah’s, and we’ll be relieved and gratified, too, when it does.