Deputy prosecutors object to releases

WAILUKU – With a judge following bail recommendations stemming from a new state law, two men were released from jail last week, over the objections of deputy prosecutors.

Five days after his release on supervision in an assault case, one defendant, Christopher Coggin, 51, of California was arrested for allegedly threatening and abusing his fiancee Tuesday afternoon after they argued at a Kaanapali hotel, police said.

Bail was set at $20,000 for Coggin, who was charged with first-degree terroristic threatening and felony abuse by strangulation. Police said Coggin impeded the breathing of the 53-year-old victim, also from California, while they were in their Ka’anapali Beach Hotel room. He also allegedly threatened to kill the woman during the incident at about 3:30 p.m., police said.

Before his release from the Maui Community Correctional Center on Jan. 3, Coggin had been jailed since Dec. 7, when he was arrested after police were called to Kaanapali Shores to investigate a domestic dispute, with a report that a man was bleeding. When Coggin wouldn’t let police into the unit, officers entered through a window of the bedroom, where Coggin was lying on the floor and had objects barricading the door.

Police said Coggin used a bodyboard to strike an officer, who was treated for injuries. Because Coggin was bleeding, an ambulance was called to transport him to the hospital. But after Coggin began threatening medics, the ambulance pulled over, and police were called to take him to the hospital, police reported.

Coggin was charged with first-degree assault on a law enforcement officer, second-degree terroristic threatening, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct.

A report prepared by the Maui Intake Service Center for his bail hearing Jan. 3 recommended that Coggin be released on supervision.

Deputy Prosecutor Carson Tani opposed the recommendation.

“This bail study makes no sense,” Tani said in court, noting that Coggin isn’t a Hawaii resident and was vacationing on Maui when he was arrested. “That makes no sense to release him on supervised release. I think some bail should be maintained in this case.”

Second Circuit Judge Joseph Cardoza said that since a new state law took effect Jan. 1, the Maui Intake Service Center is using a screening tool called the Ohio Risk Assessment Instrument to measure a defendant’s risk of flight and risk of criminal conduct while awaiting trial. “It’s designed to screen and assist in the making of recommendations concerning release,” Cardoza said.

The law is part of the Justice Reinvestment Initiative, which has been described as a data-driven strategy to bring out-of-state prisoners back to Hawaii, reduce spending on corrections and create strategies to reverse recent crime trends.

Under the new law, intake service centers in the state Department of Public Safety are required to conduct pretrial risk assessments on adult offenders within three working days of admission to a correctional center and to provide the assessments to the court. The law also says no risk assessments or bail studies will be done for defendants held for probation violation or revocation of bail or supervised release.

Before the new law took effect, intake service centers had used a different screening tool to measure a defendant’s risk of fleeing and committing crimes.

In reviewing the assessment recommending supervised release for Coggin last week, Cardoza said “the facts didn’t seem to fit with the recommendation.”

He said the report showed Coggin has no verified residence or family ties on Maui and has been unemployed for more than a year and is partially retired. Before his arrest, Coggin had been scheduled to return to California with his fiancee before the new year but wasn’t going to be able to return to the residence they shared, according to the report.

“It’s a little bit unusual to see the recommendation,” Cardoza said. “But I think what’s behind it is the screening instrument. It’s supposed to be an appropriate predictor.”

Said Tani: “Maybe we need to recalibrate it.”

Saying it would show how the screening instrument works, Cardoza followed the bail study recommendation, ordering Coggin’s release on supervision Jan. 3. Coggin was ordered to have no contact with the police officer and two medics in his case and to stay away from Kaanapali Shores.

In another case Jan. 3, again following the intake service center recommendation, Cardoza ordered the release of a 46-year-old Kihei man on his own recognizance in a drug case.

Bradley Ott had pleaded not guilty to charges of third-degree promotion of a dangerous drug and possessing drug paraphernalia.

Deputy Prosecutor Jeffery Temas asked that Ott at least be supervised while released and be ordered to abide by a curfew. “The facts do not fit the recommendation,” Temas said.

Cardoza said that “it’s interesting that under the screening instrument, there’s no recommendation for monitoring in light of the charges.”

“Perhaps in part it’s because the defendant has represented that he does not have a substance abuse issue,” the judge said. “I guess that will be adjudicated through this case.”

While saying “it’s very unusual for the court not to impose conditions under these circumstances,” Cardoza said he would follow the intake recommendation based on the new screening method in releasing Ott.

“The only way we’re going to find out if this is workable is to get some experience with it and find out if the screening instrument links to the results that are expected to be obtained,” Cardoza said.

* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at