Lava-related court cases move forward

Trial has been set in the case of the first individual accused of burglary in Leilani Estates during the current state of emergency because of Kilauea volcano lava.

According to Deputy Prosecutor Kevin Hashizaki, Alexandru Stingu-Dragomir pleaded not guilty on June 7. Hilo Circuit Judge Henry Nakamoto ordered Stingu-Dragomir to appear for trial at 8:30 a.m. Oct. 8.

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Stingu-Dragomir is charged with three counts of burglary of a dwelling during an emergency, a Class A felony, and a single count of burglary of a building during an emergency, a Class B felony.

According to the complaint, all the burglaries took place May 9, with two of the home burglaries and the building burglary occurring at the same address, 13-3564 Moku St., with the other home burglary occurring at 13-3560 Moku St.

The homeowner at 13-3564 Moku St. returned to check on his property and was alerted to Stingu-Dragomir’s alleged presence on his property when the owner noticed a 12-pack of Bud Light beer that did not belong to him outside the home, documents state.

Court records indicate Stingu-Dragomir’s private attorney, Dan O’Phelan, didn’t show for an arraignment-and-plea hearing June 5. Hilo Circuit Judge Henry Nakamoto issued an order for O’Phelan to show cause for failing to appear in court and continued the arraignment hearing for June 7.

Nakamoto also set a hearing for 8 a.m. July 19 for O’Phelan to explain why he failed to show for the June 5 hearing. Another attorney, Jeri Byers, appeared for O’Phelan on June 7, Hashizaki said.

Reached by phone, O’Phelan acknowledged missing the hearing but otherwise declined comment.

Stingu-Dragomir, a Romanian-born U.S. citizen, could be sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole if convicted of more than one of the Class A felonies. Based on court documents, a previous story erroneously stated Stingu-Dragomir was born in Russia.

He remains in custody at Hawaii Community Correctional Center in lieu of $70,000 bail.

There also has been movement in other lava emergency-related cases.

A preliminary hearing is set for 2 p.m. June 21 in Hilo District Court for 50-year-old Edward Wilson of Opihikao.

Wilson is charged with two counts each of first-degree robbery, first-degree theft, first-degree terroristic threatening and first-degree property damage, plus the use of a firearm in the commission of a separate felony.

Police arrested Wilson the evening of May 30, shortly after an alleged gunpoint robbery on Kamaili Road in Leilani Estates.

According to police, Wilson was in possession of photographic equipment reportedly taken during the robbery of a 29-year-old Opihikao man and his acquaintance, a 37-year-old California man, who were there to photograph lava from the Kilauea eruption. The men told police they were robbed by a pair of men, one who brandished a handgun and another who demanded their belongings.

Prosecutors also are seeking an extended prison sentence for Wilson.

The alleged gunman is still at large. According to police, the second suspect is described as a Caucasian man, approximately 6 feet tall, 210 pounds, with a long beard. He was last seen wearing a black shirt and shorts.

Wilson remains in custody at HCCC in lieu of $44,000 bail.

And a preliminary hearing is set for 2 p.m. June 27 in Hilo District Court for 62-year-old Allen K. Bartels of Kapoho.

Bartels is charged with refusing to evacuate, obstructing government operations, resisting an order to stop, reckless driving and two counts of second-degree reckless endangering after allegedly driving at a high rate of speed through a police checkpoint on Government Beach Road, just north of the “Four Corners” intersection, at about 8:30 a.m. June 2. The incident occurred as an active lava flow was 50-100 feet from cutting off the roadway, police said.

According to police, two county workers attempted to flag Bartels’ van down and had to jump off the road to avoid being struck. Officers followed Bartels to a residence on Government Beach Road, where he was taken into custody.

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Bartels is free on $3,750 bail.

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

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