Feds seek no bail for Hilo man accused in plane assault

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Honolulu filed a motion in U.S. District Court to detain without bail a 29-year-old Hilo man accused of attempting to assault a woman passenger aboard a Japan Airlines flight during the weekend.

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The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Honolulu filed a motion in U.S. District Court to detain without bail a 29-year-old Hilo man accused of attempting to assault a woman passenger aboard a Japan Airlines flight during the weekend.

The document, filed by Assistant U.S. Attorney Larry Butrick, describes Michael Takashi Tanouye as a danger to the community and states “no condition or combination of conditions of release … will reasonably assure the safety of any other person and the community.”

Tanouye is charged with attempted aggravated sexual assault by force or threat and interfering with a flight crew.

He appeared in federal court for a brief hearing Tuesday, with what appeared to be an injury on the left side of his face. He replied “yes” when the judge asked if he understood the charges. He wasn’t required to enter a plea.

Defense attorney Richard Sing declined to comment after the hearing. Tanouye’s parents and sister were in attendance but left the courthouse without commenting.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Larry Butrick told U.S. Magistrate Judge Kevin Chang there are additional charges and “mental health issues at play.” Outside the courtroom, Butrick declined to elaborate on the pending charges, mental health issues or the facial injury.

Chang will preside over a hearing about the government’s motion to deny Tanouye bail at 1:30 p.m. Oct. 21. Chang also set a preliminary hearing for Tanouye at 2 p.m. Nov. 14 before U.S. Magistrate Judge Richard Puglisi.

Tanouye remains in custody without bail in the Federal Detention Center in Honolulu.

According to an FBI affidavit filed with the complaint, about an hour and 45 minutes into the flight from Honolulu to Osaka, the woman, identified only by her initials, went to the bathroom. Tanouye then “forcefully entered the lavatory behind (the woman)” and closed the door, forcing her to sit on the toilet. He then allegedly grabbed her by the shoulders and forcibly pulled down her pants and underwear. He then took down his pants, exposing himself to her, the document states. At some point, the woman pushed the emergency button inside the bathroom.

The woman’s mother saw Tanouye push his way into the bathroom, the document states, and notified a flight attendant. The flight attendant, the woman’s mother and other passengers were initially unable to open the lavatory, so they removed the door by unscrewing its hinges.

Tanouye was subdued by flight attendants and passengers and the woman told an FBI agent the struggle between her and Tanouye, whom she had never met, lasted between one and two minutes.

Tanouye’s mother told flight attendants her son suffers from depression and was on medication, the document states. The mother reportedly gave Tanouye a dose of the medication and he fell asleep.

A flight attendant reportedly told the plane’s captain that Tanouye was mentally sick and two passengers, including the victim’s mother, suffered minor injuries while trying to subdue him. The captain turned the plane back to Honolulu, where it landed at about 7:25 p.m. Saturday, and Tanouye was taken into custody.

A check of court records shows no prior criminal convictions for Tanouye and he is not a registered sex offender, but the Hawaii Police Department’s booking log indicates he was arrested the evening of Oct. 4 for driving under the influence of an intoxicant, refusing a sobriety test, resisting arrest and driving without insurance. The log states the arrest took place at Hilo Medical Center, but does not indicate where the alleged offense took place. It’s also not clear whether the alleged intoxicant was alcohol or something else. A complaint filed later by prosecutors added a charge of inattention to driving.

Tanouye was released on $1,525 bail and has an arraignment and plea on those charges scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Oct. 28 in Hilo District Court, records indicate.

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The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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

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