Ice factory break-in suspect pleads not guilty
A 22-year-old Volcano man pleaded not guilty Monday to numerous charges stemming from a break-in last week at a Banyan Drive ice factory.
Hilo District Judge Barbara Takase set a preliminary hearing for 2 p.m. today for Clinton Ronald Souza. Souza is charged with burglary during a civil defense emergency, five counts of unauthorized entry to a motor vehicle, two counts of property damage and first-degree theft.
The break-in at Alii Ice Co., which occurred either late Aug. 12 or early Aug. 13, occurred while the state was under an emergency proclamation by Gov. Neil Abercrombie due to Tropical Storm Iselle, so the burglary, theft and property damage charges are enhanced, which carry potential double penalties, a 10-year prison term.
Souza’s court-appointed attorney, Cody Frenz, argued the charging documents in her client’s case are flawed.
“While the state is alleging those charges occurred during that emergency, that is zero mention of it whatsoever in the factual basis within the (probable cause documents),” she told the judge. “… There should have been a finding of no probable cause based solely on that factual problem.”
Replied Takase: “I was not the one who ruled it … and I am not going to overrule any other judge who reviewed it and approved it at this time.”
Frenz then argued the documented charges don’t justify Souza’s $152,000 bail.
“Because the enhancements being alleged are not mentioned in (documents) attached to the probable cause (determination), I think bail should be reduced appropriately,” she said.
Deputy Prosecutor Lucas Burns noted the alleged burglary took place during the emergency and asked the judge to maintain bail.
“If there are any counts in which the emergency language is not mentioned, the (probable cause documents) should be taken as a whole as they are for the same time, … incident, fact and circumstance,” he said.
The judge maintained Souza’s bail pending the preliminary hearing.
Alii Ice owner Jon Bockrath was in the courtroom and said he agreed with the judge’s ruling.
“I don’t think there should be any reduction,” he said after the hearing.
A glass door and window at the ice factory were shattered and some business records were taken police said. At least two of the company’s trucks were also damaged.
Bockrath closed the ice factory and laid off his employees after the break-in but reopened after police and prosecutors charged Souza.
“Production is fully up to capacity. We’re still a little bit limited on our deliveries but we’re … open for retail and we are back in business almost 100 percent,” he said.
After the hearing, Burns explained the reasoning for the so-called enhanced charges against Souza.
“Alii Ice Company was providing a necessary service by providing ice during a time when many people were without power and unable to create their own ice,” he said.
Frenz disagreed with the enhanced charge afterwards.
“Factually, I don’t think that was the purpose of the statute,” she said. “I think the purpose of the statute was for looting. … So basically, … if I was to go into Walmart … and take a candy bar, to what extent was this statute meant to apply?”
Souza was on supervised release on a strong-arm robbery charge when arrested for the break-in. He missed arraignment on that charge in Hilo Circuit Court Thursday morning. It was later discovered he was already in custody for allegedly breaking into cars on Banyan Drive earlier Thursday. He was later charged for the ice factory break-in.
Email John Burnett at email@example.com.