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State briefs for May 5

Ex-Delaware death row inmate found guilty of Hawaii robbery

HONOLULU — A jury in Hawaii convicted a former death row inmate from Delaware of robbery, more than two years after U.S. prosecutors dropped sex trafficking charges against him.

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The jury found Isaiah McCoy, 31, guilty Monday of second-degree robbery in a 2019 robbery in Waikiki. McCoy and an accomplice beat a man and stole his watch outside a bar, Honolulu prosecutors said.

“This verdict sends a strong message that crimes like the one committed by McCoy will not be tolerated in Honolulu,” Prosecuting Attorney Steve Alm said. He added that his office will seek the maximum 10-year prison term when McCoy is sentenced in July.

McCoy walked out of Honolulu’s federal courthouse a free man in 2018 after U.S. prosecutors dropped a 10-count sex trafficking indictment against him because a federal agent admitted that he had withheld evidence and lied. McCoy represented himself in the case.

McCoy was convicted and sentenced to death in 2012. But Delaware’s Supreme Court ordered a new trial, citing errors by the judge and prosecutor at trial. A judge found him not guilty at a retrial.

Less than a year after his release from death row, he was arrested and charged with sex trafficking. Prosecutors alleged he forced, threatened and coerced young women into prostitution in Hawaii.

While awaiting trial, McCoy told The Associated Press at the Honolulu Federal Detention Center that he moved to Hawaii after he was invited to speak at a criminal justice reform rally.

A federal judge last year dismissed most claims in McCoy’s lawsuit that claimed he was wrongfully and maliciously investigated, prosecuted and incarcerated for the murder of 30-year-old James Mumford.

State aims to move parts of Maui road inland as seas rise

WAILUKU, Maui — Hawaii officials have proposed moving parts of a Maui coastal highway that experts say are among the roads most vulnerable to erosion and rising sea levels in the state, but some community members say the plan doesn’t go far enough.

The state Department of Transportation plans to spend $4 million moving two sections of Honoapiilani Highway in Lahaina about 12 feet inland. The department plans to start construction in the middle of next year.

One segment, in Ukumehame, spans 4,100 feet while the other in Olowalu is 1,000 feet. The department said the move would place the sections outside the reach of an anticipated 3.2 foot rise in sea levels.

But community members criticized the plan during a public meeting held by department officials last week, saying the proposed relocation would just be temporary fix.

“Who is making the decision to choose this Band-Aid approach instead of moving the road (more) mauka?” asked Maui resident Branden Hazlet, using the Hawaiian word for inland.

Lahaina native Tiare Lawrence said West Maui is just “one storm away from a catastrophic situation” due to king tides, big waves and erosion impacting the “one road in and one road out.”

Lawrence said the community has requested realignment farther inland for many years.

“I would rather them take the $4 million and focus on full realignment of Honoapiilani,” she said.

Robin Shishido, Maui District engineer for the department, said during the meeting that any major change to the highway at large “takes a lot more effort” and that the state was focusing on the critical areas now.

Terrance Arashiro, president of Austin Tsutsumi & Associates, which has been working on the project, said the process of conducting an environmental impact statement and working on the larger Honoapiilani realignment or bypass project was time consuming and may take several years.

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“It’s unfortunate it takes that amount of time — but I just want to stress that we can’t wait for the bypass to happen,” he said. “We have to do something now.”

A 2019 State of Hawaii Coastal Highway Program Report ranked the Olowalu segment No. 2 and the Ukumehame swath No. 12 among “critical” roads susceptible to erosion and structural degradation.

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