State briefs for February 10

New commander named for US Pacific Fleet

HONOLULU — President Donald Trump has named Vice Adm. John Aquilino as the new U.S. Pacific Fleet commander.

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Aquilino currently commands the U.S. 5th Fleet operating out of Bahrain.

The U.S. Senate will vote on the nomination that was announced Friday.

Two Pacific Fleet ships were involved in separate collisions near Japan and Singapore last year that killed 17 sailors. The Navy fired several top leaders, including the commander of the 7th Fleet.

The current Pacific Fleet commander, Adm. Scott Swift, announced in September he would retire after he learned he wouldn’t be promoted to lead all U.S. forces in the region at U.S. Pacific Command.

The Pacific Fleet is headquartered in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Its ships operate from the U.S. West Coast, Hawaii, Guam and Asia.

Ex-death row inmate defends himself in sex trafficking case

HONOLULU — A judge is allowing an exonerated death row inmate from Delaware to defend himself against sex trafficking charges in Hawaii.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Richard Puglsi says he believes it’s unwise for Isaiah McCoy to defend himself in a case where he faces life in prison if convicted. Still, the judge in Honolulu granted McCoy’s request Friday and appointed an attorney to be his backup counsel.

McCoy told the judge he represented himself in a death penalty case in Delaware. In 2010, McCoy was convicted of murder and sentenced to death. He spent nearly seven years in prison before being acquitted during a second trial. He later moved to Hawaii.

He is charged with seven counts of sex trafficking. Prosecutors say he forced, threatened and coerced young women into prostitution.

Super Bowl day: 30 percent of Hawaii prison guards out sick

HONOLULU — Nearly 30 percent of Hawaii’s prison guards called in sick on Super Bowl Sunday, state officials said.

Officials said Wednesday that while fewer guards took sick leave this year than in the past two years, the phenomenon remains an annual problem for the state Department of Public Safety.

Toni Schwartz, the department’s public information officer, said “curbing excessive leave use is a constant battle for all state agencies.”

Schwartz said the department’s jails and prisons still had enough staffing to hold all of their programs, despite the absence of 213 of 733 guards assigned on Sunday.

Sunday’s statewide sick leave total of 213 compares with 260 last year and 230 in 2016.

The state’s largest jail, Oahu Community Correctional Center, with 209 guards assigned to work on Sunday, saw 34 percent of its guards call in sick. That’s 72 guards out this year at the Oahu correctional center, compared to 78 last year and 58 in 2016.

Schwartz said wardens have made it a priority in recent years to think outside the box when it comes to staffing on Super Bowl Sunday.

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“They ask employees for a verbal commitment that they will be at work,” she said. “They may lock down certain areas temporarily that aren’t holding programs and shift staff to help with visitation. The staff understands the importance of showing up to work and holding programs.”

Schwartz said the department will continue to work with the staff and the unions to find solutions to ensure adequate staffing.

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