A former Hawaii Community Correctional Center inmate who claims he was locked up 20 days beyond his scheduled release date is suing the state Department of Public Safety and three DPS officials.
The suit was filed Oct. 15 in Hilo Circuit Court by Kona attorney Jason Kwiat on behalf of 44-year-old Michael Kaonohi Perry Jr.
The DPS officials named as defendants are Director Nolan Espinda; Jodie Maesaka-Hirata, deputy director of the Corrections Division; and HCCC Warden Peter Cabreros.
The suit seeks unspecified damages, claiming the defendants “owed a duty of reasonable care” toward Perry to protect him “from unreasonable risk of harm, including the deprivation of liberty without due process.”
Perry’s probation in a misdemeanor terroristic threatening case was revoked Aug. 12, 2016, and he was sentenced by Kona District Judge Peter Bresciani to 90 days in jail which, according to the lawsuit, meant he was to be released Nov. 10, 2016. The complaint states Perry wasn’t released until his court-appointed public defender, Andrew Kennedy, contacted the HCCC Records Department on Nov. 30, 2016, “requesting information pertaining to HCCC’s refusal to release” Perry.
“It’s a paperwork thing,” said Kwiat, who added that jailers somehow didn’t get Perry’s release documents. “… The court’s policy is that they always send an order along with the (inmate). So, once a defendant’s hearing is over, they send that order over with the sheriffs. So there’s really no reason that HCCC shouldn’t get the records on time.”
The Sheriff Division also is a part of the Department of Public Safety.
Kwiat said he “can’t really discuss” what might be a fair settlement in the case.
“We are hoping to settle the matter instead of litigating it because it’s clear he should’ve been released, and he wasn’t,” he said.
At least one other former HCCC inmate has sued DPS, claiming to have been detained longer than was ordered by the court.
Byron Miyashiro, who on Feb. 8, 2014, was sentenced to four years probation and a year in jail for habitual DUI, was supposed to have been released Nov. 9, 2014, applying the credit for time served he was given by Hilo Circuit Judge Glenn Hara, who has since retired. Miyashiro wasn’t released until Jan. 13, 2015, 65 days beyond his scheduled release date.
According to court records, Miyashiro’s lawsuit was settled for $10,000 in April 2017.
The Tribune-Herald also reported on Oct. 7 that 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.
“It’s an ongoing systemic problem, whether they’re releasing them early or releasing them late,” Kwiat said.
Toni Schwartz, DPS spokeswoman, said the department hasn’t been served with the suit and referred the Tribune-Herald to the state attorney general’s office. James Walther, a special assistant to the attorney general, said the office also hasn’t been served.
Email John Burnett at email@example.com.