Third sex assault case filed against Kona man

  • Justin Mariano appears at his mental fitness hearing in 2020. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today file photo)

A 21-year-old Kona man indicted in 2019 for allegedly sexually assaulting a minor on the grounds of a South Kona public school was recently indicted in connection with two later, unrelated sex assaults.

Justin Mariano is currently committed to the Hawaii State Hospital on Oahu after Kona Circuit Court Judge Robert D.S. Kim deemed him unfit to stand trial and a danger to the community on Feb. 28, 2020, following reports submitted to the court by a panel of three doctors who examined him in connection with the first of now three indictments in separate cases alleging sexual assault.

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Mariano, who was a high school student over the age of 18 at the time of the 2018-19 alleged offenses, was charged in the first case via a June 2019 indictment 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.

On Feb. 8, a Kona Grand Jury indicted Mariano on one count of first-degree sexual assault in connection with an unrelated case involving a 17-year-old girl who was mentally defective, meaning the victim was suffering from a disease, disorder or defect that renders her incapable of appraising the nature of the person’s conduct. The indictment states the assault took place on or about Oct. 1, 2015, through Nov. 15, 2015. Mariano was 15 years old at the time.

The next week, the grand jury gathered and indicted Mariano for alleged assaults which took place between August 2015 and May 2017 on a 16-year-old girl, who was also mentally defective. In that indictment, he was charged with four counts of first-degree sexual assault and two counts of second-degree sexual assault.

Court records indicate Mariano was aware of the victims’ mental capacities.

A status hearing for the first indictment is scheduled for March 18, during which doctors from the Hawaii State Hospital will submit their reports.

Court dates for the other two indictments has not yet been set. The indictments came after the Kona Grand Jury met for the first time in months after being suspended because of the pandemic.

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If found fit to stand trial, Mariano could face up to 20 years incarceration for each count of first-degree sexual assault, 10 years for each count of second-degree sexual assault and five years for third-degree sexual assault.

Anyone who has information about these or any other sexual assaults are encouraged to contact the Kona Police Station’s Juvenile Aid Section at 326-4646, ext. 230.

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