South Kona man charged with continuous sexual assault of a minor deemed unfit for trial

  • Justin Mariano appears at his mental fitness hearing Friday in Circuit Court. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

A man accused of sexually assaulting a minor on the grounds of a South Kona public school has been deemed unfit to stand trial.

The three doctors who evaluated Justin Taylor Mariano for fitness to proceed with trial were called to testify during a hearing Friday before Kona Circuit Court Judge Robert D.S. Kim. The hearing, typically held when the opinions of the doctors differ, was requested by Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Annaliese H. Wolf with no objection of Mariano’s counsel, Deputy Public Defender Ann Datta.

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After hearing testimony from the mental health professionals, Kim ruled Mariano unfit to stand trial and a danger to the community.

Mariano was taken into the custody of the State Department of Health to be committed to the Hawaii State Hospital on Oahu.

Prior to Friday, he had been free on $20,000 bail with conditions of no contact with victim, the victim’s family and Konawaena High School. Mariano was also subject to electronic monitoring.

Mariano, who was a high school student over the age of 18 at the time of the alleged offenses, was charged with one count of continuous sexual assault of a minor under the age of 14, four counts first-degree sexual assault, and one count third-degree sexual assault.

The alleged assaults took place between November 2018 and February 2019, per the indictment. The victim’s family, whom West Hawaii Today is not identifying to protect the victim, said the incidents happened on the Konawaena High School campus.

Mariano was indicted in June 2019, however, he has not entered a plea to the charges and a trial date was never set. That’s because during his initial appearance, Datta requested her client’s mental fitness be examined.

A return hearing on the mental exam did not come until January due to a flawed report and a request for a neuro-psychological evaluation. That hearing was again continued until last week when Mariano was deemed by the court as unfit.

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A status hearing is scheduled for April 2, during which doctors from the Hawaii State Hospital will submit their reports.

Continuous sex assault of a minor under the age of 14 is a class A felony. If deemed fit to stand trial and convicted, Mariano faces up to 20 years imprisonment.

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