Since March 2013, 23 inmates were mistakenly released from Hawaii jails and prisons with 16 — more than two-thirds — released from Hawaii Community Correctional Center.
According to the state Department of Public Safety, nine of those erroneous releases, and six on the Big Island, occurred this year, including the release of an alleged killer.
“We acknowledge that procedural improvement is needed for the current system in the 3rd Circuit Court,” Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Toni Schwartz said Wednesday, referring to the Big Island. “The Department of Public Safety is committed to working collaboratively with our Judicial partner on this effort.”
The problem came to a head on July 26 when the department announced that police and sheriffs’ deputies were looking for Brian Lee Smith, a pretrial detainee facing a second-degree murder charge, after a “mistaken release” two days earlier from HCCC.
Smith, who has a Jan. 8 trial date in Kona for the fatal shooting of Thomas Ballesteros Jr., turned himself in to police the same night. He had returned to Kona from the Hilo jail after authorities set him free.
Smith’s mistaken release and a manhunt that ensued occurred shortly after police tracked down and fatally shot fugitive cop-killer Justin Waiki, who shot and killed Puna Patrol Officer Bronson Kaliloa July 17 beside Highway 11 in Mountain View.
Kona Circuit Judge Melvin Fujino summoned HCCC Warden Peter Cabreros on Aug. 9 to explain the release of Smith, the second time this year Cabreros was called on the carpet by a Kona Circuit judge to explain erroneous releases.
“The court is cognizant that the Department of Public Safety is conducting its own internal investigation in to this case, and as such, the court will leave it up to the Department of Public Safety to determine what did or what did not happen regarding the release of the defendant, Brian Smith,” Fujino said at that time after noting there was “no excuse” for the release of Smith.
The previous order for DPS to show cause was in March, when Judge Robert Kim summoned Cabreros to explain the early releases of Adam Glassbrook, Tandi Ezzo and Ryan Wiles.
“During that day in court with Judge Kim, we promised to hold meetings with our Judiciary partners to discuss ways to tighten up the process in the 3rd Circuit Court. We have been holding true to our promise,” Schwartz said.
There has been one erroneous release since Smith’s, Haley Mepham, on July 30 from HCCC’s Hale Nani women’s facility, because of what DPS called “misinterpretation of court documents.” While details are sketchy, Mepham appeared in court that day to face a misdemeanor marijuana charge and was sentenced to 12 days in jail, time already served.
The first name on a list provided by DPS of erroneously released inmates is Tyler Kamana‘o Taylor, who is serving a 10-year prison term for the knifepoint robbery of two campers at Kolekole Beach Park. Taylor was mistakenly released by HCCC on March 6, 2013, after the jail received documents dismissing his case in Hilo District Court prior to paperwork showing he was indicted on the same charges, which moved his case to Hilo Circuit Court. The Tribune-Herald published a story about Taylor’s erroneous release on June 10, 2013, and police issued a bulletin seeking public information about his whereabouts two days later.
Taylor surrendered to police in late August 2013. An aunt of Taylor’s told the Tribune-Herald at that time that Taylor, who was 18, knew he was being sought but was afraid to turn himself in to authorities.
While Taylor was still at large, Steven Kaio was erroneously released on May 31, 2013, according to DPS, because a document revoking his parole was not in his file. Kaio was facing charges of commercial promotion of marijuana, drug paraphernalia, terroristic threatening and felon in possession of a firearm. He eventually pleaded no contest to the firearms charge and was sentenced to 10 years in prison. According to the DPS website, he was scheduled for release on Oct. 5 from Saguaro Correctional Center in Arizona.
In addition to Smith and Taylor, there have been several erroneous releases of violent criminals in high profile Hawaii Island cases.
Keanu Krause, serving a five-year sentence for felony burglary, theft and unauthorized control of a stolen vehicle, was turned loose from HCCC after what a prosecutor called “a paperwork snafu” on June 23, 2017. Police described Krause as “armed and dangerous,” and he was taken back into custody without incident in Puna later that day.
Krause was transferred to Halawa Correctional Facility on Oahu after an alleged jailhouse assault June 16 that left 60-year-old inmate Gilbert DeDa with numerous facial fractures. Krause is scheduled for a change of plea in that case on Oct. 31.
And Anthony Gover, a pretrial detainee accused of the May 17, 2017, knifepoint robbery of First Hawaiian Bank was mistakenly released from HCCC on Feb. 19 on a paperwork snafu. Gover is due in court on the bank robbery charge on Oct. 19, but has refused to leave his cell for court hearings at least nine times, including his last two court dates.
A panel of three mental health professionals has found him fit to stand trial.
Of the seven erroneous releases occurring on other islands, three were at Oahu Community Correctional Center, one was at Maui Community Correctional Center and two were at Halawa Correctional Facility — a medium-security prison on Oahu.
“It’s very much a concern to us when it happens,” said Hawaii County Prosecutor Mitch Roth. “I think the Judiciary, the police, Public Safety, they’ve all been looking at how we can remedy this situation. I know Public Safety has been working on some issues inside to make sure it doesn’t happen (again). I know there’s been several changes in forms in the past several years, and they’re looking at that.”
“Over the last couple of months, the Judiciary has met with Public Safety officials several times to discuss improvements to the process of transporting defendants to and from the courts,” Judiciary spokeswoman Jan Kagehiro said.
“These discussions are ongoing, and together, we are re-evaluating forms and procedures and developing ways to revise current practices to enhance the safety of the public, and ensure these incidents don’t happen again.”
Email John Burnett at email@example.com.
LIST OF INMATES MISTAKENLY RELEASED
Information Provided by Hawaii Department of Public Safety
(Date, Name of inmate, facility released from, charges, explanation of release)
1. March 6, 2013, Tyler Taylor, Hawaii Community Correctional Center, robbery, theft and terroristic threatening, released on District Court documents before Circuit Court documents received.
2. May 31, 2013, Steven Kaio, Hawaii Community Correctional Center, felon in possession of firearm, parole revocation document not in file.
3. Sept. 31, 2013, Edward Robins, Oahu Community Correctional Center, misdemeanor assault, released due to misinterpretation of court documents.
4. Sept. 15, 2015, William Roy Carroll III, Hawaii Community Correctional Center, theft and criminal property damage, released on District Court documents before Circuit Court documents received.
5. April 6, 2016, Marcus Carlos-Grube, Hawaii Community Correctional Center, theft and drugs, released on District Court documents before Circuit Court documents received.
6. Oct. 28, 2016, Benjamin Balmilero, Oahu Community Correctional Center, domestic abuse, released due to missing court documents.
7. Nov. 16, 2016, Justin Flores, Hawaii Community Correctional Center, driving without license and insurance, facility didn’t receive amended judgment.
8. Nov. 29, 2016, Kamaki Wilson-Makua, Hawaii Community Correctional Center, unauthorized control of stolen vehicle, misapplication of pre-sentence credit for time served.
9. April 25, 2017, Ryan Wiles, Hawaii Community Correctional Center, unauthorized entry to a dwelling, misapplication of pre-sentence credit for time served.
10. May 15, 2017, Kimo Hoopii Sr., Hawaii Community Correctional Center, sexual assault and domestic abuse, released on District Court documents before Circuit Court documents received.
11. June 23, 2017, Keanu Krause, Hawaii Community Correctional Center, burglary, theft and unauthorized control of stolen vehicle, released on District Court documents before Circuit Court documents received.
12. Aug. 15, 2017, Tandi Ezzo, Hawaii Community Correctional Center, drugs and firearms, misapplication of pre-sentence credit for time served.
13. Sept. 16, 2017, Shane Decambra, Oahu Community Correctional Center, criminal property damage, misinterpretation of court documents.
14. Dec. 4, 2017, James Kula, Halawa Correctional Facility, parole violation, misinterpretation of parole documents.
15. Jan. 4, 2018, Tomasz Mieczkowski, Hawaii Community Correctional Center, habitual DUI and contempt of court, misinterpretation of court documents.
16. Feb. 8, 2018, Anthony Gover, Hawaii Community Correctional Center, bank robbery, released on District Court documents before Circuit Court documents received.
17. Feb. 15, 2018, Adam Glassbrook, Hawaii Community Correctional Center, drugs (charges since dismissed), document not in file.
18. May 18, 2018, Dirk Brace, Maui Community Correctional Center, drugs and trespassing, released on District Court documents before Circuit Court documents received.
19. May 23, 2018, Winston Kailimai, Oahu Community Correctional Center, assault, misinterpretation of court documents.
20. May 23, 2018, Kainoa Ah Moo Sang, Halawa Correctional Facility, parole violation, misinterpretation of parole documents.
21. June 22, 2018, Dustin Enocencio, Hawaii Community Correctional Center, driving without license and insurance, mistaken release due to status change from intermittent jail to straight time.
22. July 24, 2018, Brian Smith, Hawaii Community Correctional Center, murder, missing court documents.
23. July 30, 2018, Haley Mepham, Hawaii Community Correctional Center, marijuana possession, misinterpretation of court documents.