Trial dates set for alleged escapees

Two men accused of a brazen violent daytime jailbreak from Hawaii Community Correctional Center in late 2012 have been given separate trial dates.

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Two men accused of a brazen violent daytime jailbreak from Hawaii Community Correctional Center in late 2012 have been given separate trial dates.

Separate panels of three mental health professionals have found both 36-year-old Jarvis Naoki Higa of Hilo and 32-year-old Ryan Jeffries-Hamar of Kona fit to stand trial.

Hilo Circuit Judge Glenn Hara on Thursday set two separate trials for Higa. The first, scheduled for Sept. 2 at 10 a.m. is for attempted murder, and three firearms charges. Those are the charges Higa was being held for when the escape allegedly occurred and stem from an incident that police say occurred at about 1:10 a.m. on July 18, 2012.

In that incident, a 34-year-old Hilo man reported to police that he was threatened by a man with a firearm in the parking lot of a Keaukaha condominium. Police say a shot was fired but no one was injured.

The other trial, for the alleged escape, plus kidnapping, assault, robbery, auto theft and property damage was set for Sept. 9.

On Wednesday, Hara set trial for Jeffries-Hamar for Oct. 27 at 8:30 a.m. on the same charges plus unlawful imprisonment for the alleged jailbreak.

Both are incarcerated without bail at Halawa Correctional Facility.

Higa appeared in court in custody with court-appointed defense attorney Christopher Bridges, who noted in open court that Higa wants him to withdraw from the case and has written three letters to the state’s Office of Disciplinary Counsel.

“I’m not ready to go to trial with this guy …,” Higa said.

Bridges told the judge that a motion to withdraw may “possibly” be forthcoming but that he has not seen the letters that Higa wrote to ODC, only ODC’s replies to Higa.

Later in the hearing, Higa asked the judge when a new attorney would be appointed for him. Hara replied that a motion would have to be filed and he would have to grant it before that might happen.

“If I deny the motion, then you may have the same lawyer,” Hara said.

In late 2012, Hara denied a request by retired HCCC guard Joseph Amormino to replace Deputy Public Defender Michael Ebesugawa as his attorney. Amormino was sentenced to 25 years in prison late last year after pleading guilty to first-degree assault, a firearms charge and terroristic threatening for the non-fatal shooting of his former girlfriend, June Shirshac.

Bridges said afterwards that he couldn’t comment without breaching attorney-client confidentiality laws.

According to court documents filed by police, on Dec. 5, 2012, Higa choked Roberto Paulino, an unarmed, 63-year-old HCCC guard, and Jeffries-Hamar punched Paulino several times and stole his keys to the facility.

The documents state that Jeffries-Hamar took car keys belonging to HCCC’s law librarian, Wendy Osborne, and the pair “forcibly kicked open a gate” leading from the HCCC law library to the parking lot — causing more than $1,000 in damage — before stealing Osborne’s 2004 Toyota Corolla to make their escape. The car was later found ditched at the mauka end of Kukuau Street in Hilo’s Sunrise Ridge subdivision.

Paulino was treated for bumps and bruises at Hilo Medical Center and released.

A massive manhunt ensued. Higa was arrested two days later in Ocean View and Jeffries-Hamar was taken into custody Dec. 13 in Hawaiian Beaches.

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Jeffries-Hamar also faces separate escape charges for allegedly fleeing Hale Nani Correctional Facility in Hilo on Aug. 14, 2012. He was nabbed Sept. 8 in Kealakekua.

Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiitribune- herald.com.

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