An order from the Hawaii Supreme Court, in an instruction to the lower court judges, states in part, “Release shall be presumed, unless the court finds that the release of the inmate would pose a significant risk to the safety of the inmate or the public.”
That doesn’t mean, however, that those released aren’t accused of violent acts.
County Prosecutor Mitch Roth said his office received more than 100 motions seeking the release of inmates due to COVID-19, some of which were convicted for or accused of violent acts.
According to Roth, many pretrial releases occur during initial court appearances or bail hearings with no mention of COVID-19, however, so its difficult to quantify them as COVID-19 releases.
“I think some of the most questionable releases haven’t been on COVID-19 motions,” Roth said Thursday. “It’s been at bail hearings. And I think it’s important that the public understand that.”
Roth said the order from the Supreme Court changes the dynamics of how courtrooms and the Hawaii Paroling Authority operate, even if COVID-19 isn’t referred to in a motion or a hearing.
Below is a short list of inmates seeking release who are accused of violent acts.
• Malcolm Keith Utecht, a former Army sergeant and pretrial detainee charged with second-degree murder for the Jan. 7 fatal stabbing of 71-year-old Solomon Matthews in Matthews’ Fern Acres home, was denied release May 4 by Acting Hilo Circuit Judge Jeffrey Hawk.
His motion for supervised release related to COVID-19 was denied without prejudice, meaning Utecht is free to refile his request. Utecht, who is awaiting a determination about his mental fitness to stand trial, remains in HCCC in lieu of $553,000 bail.
• Corey Napoleon, 41, charged with attempted second-degree murder for the March 28, 2019, nonfatal shooting of his then-35-year-old estranged wife, Miya Sagucio Napoleon, in her family’s Hilo home, has a continued hearing scheduled for 1:30 p.m. June 3 before Hilo Circuit Judge Henry Nakamoto.
Attorneys for Napoleon, who is morbidly obese and bedridden, filed their motion for supervised release on other grounds, but have added COVID-19 to their request. Napoleon remains in the medical unit of Halawa Correctional Facility on Oahu in lieu of $250,000 bail.
• Reed Russell Martineau, also known as Matthew Wittenberg, is charged with attempted second-degree murder, first-degree robbery, unauthorized entry to a motor vehicle, auto theft, and two counts each of kidnapping, first degree robbery and first-degree terroristic threatening.
The charges stem from a violent carjacking Aug. 21, 2018, of Martineau’s then-77-year-old landlord in Kalapana Seaview Estates and assaults on the landlord, John Renauer, and Martineau’s then 52-year-old girlfriend, Leesa Callahan, who was also in the car.
Martineau’s motion for supervised release was denied April 17 by Nakamoto. Martineau’s next court date is set for 8:30 a.m. June 1, and he remains in custody at HCCC in lieu of $451,000 bail.
• Jake P. Branch, 35, of Kona, who led police on at least two vehicle chases before being apprehended last month in South Kohala, is facing 14 charges, including three counts of burglary of a dwelling during an emergency, two counts of leaving the scene of an accident, first-degree theft during an emergency, auto theft, resisting an order to stop and property damage.