South Kohala campground assault suspect trial set

  • Zeth Browder appears Thursday in Kona Circuit Court. (Chelsea Jensen/West Hawaii Today)

KAILUA-KONA — A teen accused of sexually assaulting an elderly woman at a South Kohala campground this summer has been found fit stand trial.

Zeth Robert Browder, 18, is now slated for jury trial starting March 10 after Kona Circuit Court Judge Robert D.S. Kim ruled Thursday the man is fit to proceed with the case. His finding follows review of doctor’s reports submitted by psychiatrists Henry Yang and Andrew Bisset and psychologist Welli Weiss determining the defendant fit.

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Neither Browder’s counsel, Deputy Public Defender Ann Datta nor Honolulu Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Kristin Yamamoto contested the findings. The Honolulu attorney is representing the state because of an undisclosed conflict of interest in the Hawaii County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.

Browder, who had no permanent address at the time of his arrest, remains confined to Hawaii Community Correctional Center in lieu of $166,000 bail.

Browder in following a July indictment pleaded not guilty to two counts each first-degree sexual assault and third-degree sexual assault and one count each first-degree burglary, kidnapping and tampering with evidence filed in connection with the alleged June 15 incident at Spencer Beach Park, a Hawaii County facility located in Kawaihae.

A superseding indictment filed earlier this month contains no different charges, but was required after an opinion rendered by the Intermediate Court of Appeals last month. In the unrelated case of State of Hawaii v. Gabriel R.J. Aledo, the ICA dismissed the indictment because the statutory definition of the word “compulsion” was not included in the charging document, said Brooks Baehr, City and County of Honolulu Department of the Prosecuting Attorney spokesman.

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The charges stem from a sex assault reported to the Hawaii Police Department early June 15. South Kohala patrol officers responded to the Kawaihae campground that morning to learn the victim, a 78-year-old woman, had been sexually assaulted by a man who was also camping in the area. However, the parties were not camping together.

Police said after taking the report, officers located and took Browder into custody while the investigation continued. He was charged the following day. The case was being heard in Kona District Court to determine if probable cause existed to support the charges, however, prosecutor’s took the case to a grand jury for indictment.