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Judge sets trial, reduces bail in Volcano sex assault case

  • TAYLOR

A judge on Friday reduced bail despite the objection of the prosecution for a 46-year-old Volcano man accused of sexually assaulting a 57-year-old Volcano woman in her front yard in the early morning of April 11.

Hilo Circuit Judge Peter Kubota reduced James Michael Taylor’s bail from $187,000 to $50,000 after Taylor pleaded not guilty to two counts of first-degree sexual assault, plus single counts of attempted first-degree sexual assault, kidnapping, third-degree sexual assault and third-degree assault.

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Kubota ordered Taylor, who was indicted Wednesday by a Hilo grand jury, to appear for trial at 9 a.m. on Sept. 13.

The most serious charges — first-degree sexual assault, attempted first degree sexual assault and kidnapping — are all Class A felonies carrying a potential 20-year prison sentence upon conviction.

Taylor’s attorney, Deputy Public Defender Zachary Wingert, asked Kubota for a bail reduction, noting a bail study described Taylor’s ability to afford bail as “minimal.”

The lawyer said Taylor “has no convictions in this state” and was “born on Oahu and raised here.”

“He’s not a flight risk to leave the jurisdiction,” Wingert told the judge. “… He’s not going to leave the country or anything like that.”

Deputy Prosecutor Haaheo Kahoohalahala objected to the requested bail reduction.

“We believe that the defendant poses a danger both to the victim and the community, so we are asking the court to maintain bail,” Kahoohalahala argued.

“I just want to point out that he’s presumed innocent until proven otherwise … and he denies these allegations,” Wingert said. “… The charges are allegations, and you can’t proceed on the assumption that they’re automatically true.”

Kubota reduced Taylor’s bail to $50,000 “based on the arguments.”

“We are disappointed with the reduction of the defendant’s bail over the state’s objection,” said county Prosecutor Kelden Waltjen later. “We are concerned for the safety of the complainant as well as the Volcano community. Here, the defendant has been charged with six offenses related to a violent sexual and physical assault and kidnapping, which occurred on the complainant’s own property, just outside of her home.”

According to court documents filed by police, the victim was asleep in the early morning hours when she heard a dog barking outside and walked out into the front yard to chase what she thought were animals out of her yard.

Instead, she was “jumped” and knocked down by a man she didn’t know but recognized from a photograph that was being circulated by the Neighborhood Watch because of his alleged involvement in other incidents, documents state.

The woman reportedly told police that the man grabbed her by the throat with one hand, then used his other hand to close her mouth to prevent her from calling for help, which restricted her breathing.

The victim said the man told her, “You know me, James Taylor … I grew up in this neighborhood,” and performed unwanted sexual acts on her.

The woman called police after seeing Taylor leave her property, documents state.

According to documents, an officer saw small cuts on the woman’s nose, lip and hands, redness on her throat and back and swelling on her back.

Taylor was found sleeping on the ground in a pasture about 50 yards away from the victim’s house. He was arrested, and the woman identified Taylor from a photographic lineup.

Taylor was advised of his rights and requested a lawyer, so no statement was taken from him, according to police.

Last week, the victim filed for a temporary restraining order against Taylor in Hilo District Court.

The Tribune-Herald doesn’t identify sexual assault victims unless the individual chooses to go public.

In addition, two other individuals filed separate petitions on Thursday for TROs against Taylor, claiming they were threatened and/or harassed by him.

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Hearings for all three petitions are scheduled for April 26 in Hilo District Court.

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

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