Kealakekua man indicted on several counts of sexual assault

KAILUA-KONA — A Kealakekua man was indicted Monday by a Kona grand jury on six counts of sexual assault in connection with alleged offenses that the victim’s family says happened on the Konawaena High School campus in Kealakekua.

Justin Taylor Mariano, who was a high school student older than 18 at the time of the alleged offenses, was charged with one count of continuous sexual assault of a minor under the age of 14, four counts of first-degree sexual assault and one count of third-degree sexual assault, according to court records and the victim’s family.

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A bench warrant had yet to be issued as of press time Wednesday.

The alleged assaults took place between November 2018 and February, per the indictment. The victim’s family, whom West Hawaii Today is not identifying to protect the victim, said the assaults happened on the Konawaena High campus.

The victim was a Konawaena Middle School student at the time of the alleged assaults and a temporary restraining order was issued against Mariano, the family said. Mariano was arrested in connection with the case on March 2 and released pending further investigation, and did not return to school.

The state Department of Education declined to comment about the case, and attempts to reach Konawaena High School Principal Shawn Suzuki were unsuccessful as of press time.

“The department is committed to ensuring student safety at every campus and takes all allegations of wrongdoing very seriously,” says a statement from the DOE. “We cannot, however, comment on ongoing or potential legal matters,”

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Continuous sex assault of a minor and first-degree sex assault are Class A felonies punishable by up to 20 years imprisonment. Third-degree sex assault is a Class C felony that carries five years imprisonment upon conviction.

Email Laura Ruminski at lruminski@westhawaiitoday.com.

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