Three lava emergency-related criminal cases resolved

A 51-year-old Opihikao man was acquitted of robbing two men who were photographing lava during last year’s Kilauea volcano eruption.

After a so-called stipulated facts bench trial on Oct. 2, Hilo Circuit Judge Henry Nakamoto ruled Edward Wilson suffered from temporary mental incapacity and wasn’t legally responsible for his actions.

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The judge acquitted Wilson of the gunpoint robbery of a 29-year-old Opihikao man and a 37-year-old California man on the evening of May 30, 2018, on Kamalii Road in Leilani Estates.

The men told police they were robbed by a pair of men, one who brandished a handgun and another who demanded their belongings.

Police said Wilson was in possession of items taken in the robbery, including camera equipment, when he was arrested a short time later. He had been charged with two counts each of first-degree robbery, first-degree theft, first-degree terroristic threatening, plus the use of a firearm in the commission of a felony.

Police never arrested a second suspect, the alleged gunman.

Wilson is free on conditional release and has a review hearing at 9:30 a.m. Dec. 6.

A similar verdict was rendered in an unrelated burglary case that took place in Leilani Estates during last year’s lava emergency.

Nakamoto on June 7 acquitted Alexandru Stingu-Dragomir, the first individual charged with burglary during the state of emergency, also ruling he wasn’t legally responsible for his actions because of temporary mental incapacity.

Stingu-Dragomir, who faced three counts of burglary of a dwelling during a civil defense emergency and another of burglary of a building during a civil defense emergency, was previously found unfit to proceed. But after a subsequent ruling of fitness, Nakamoto acquitted the 30-year-old Romanian-born U.S. citizen following a stipulated facts bench trial.

The burglaries all took place May 9, 2018, with two of the home burglaries and the building burglary occurring at the same address, 13-3564 Moku St., and the other home burglary occurring at 13-3350 Moku St.

The 13-3564 Moku St. homeowner returned to check on his property and was alerted to Stingu-Dragomir’s presence by a 12-pack of Bud Light beer outside the home.

Stingu-Dragomir was released conditionally from custody, but was discharged from conditional release following a review hearing Sept. 6.

And in a third case during the lava emergency unrelated to either of the above cases, a misdemeanor conviction was erased from the record of a then-62-year-old Kapoho man who drove at a high rate of speed through a lava checkpoint on Government Beach Road on June 2, 2018.

Allan K. Bartels pleaded no contest Nov. 5, 2018, to obstructing government operations and disobedience to police officers, both misdemeanors.

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Nakamoto deferred acceptance of Bartels’ plea on the condition Bartels stay out of additional legal trouble for a year. Bartels complied with that condition.

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

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