Bail hiked for sex assault suspect

WAILUKU – A man, who had been released from jail the day before, was arrested in the sexual assault of a woman who was dragged into a dressing room at a Maui Mall store Friday afternoon, a deputy prosecutor said.

During his initial appearance Monday in Wailuku District Court, Charles Cowans, 43, had his bail increased to $500,000 on charges of kidnapping and first-degree sexual assault.

Police said a 33-year-old woman who didn’t know Cowans was dragged into the store dressing room, where her clothing was forcibly removed and she was sexually assaulted at about 1 p.m. Friday. When the woman tried to escape, the man restrained her while punching and choking her, police said. She screamed, and the man ran.

An off-duty police officer who was at the mall helped arrest Cowans outside the store.

In court Monday, Deputy Prosecutor Kristin Coccaro asked that bail be increased to $2 million for Cowans because of his dangerousness and “the planned and violent nature of the attack.”

Court records show that on Dec. 20, Cowans was resentenced to a one-year jail term as part of five years’ probation after violating requirements of his probation in a 1991 case involving charges of kidnapping and attempted first-degree assault.

Coccaro said Cowans could have been sentenced to a 20-year prison term Dec. 20 but wasn’t. Instead, court records show he was resentenced to a one-year jail term as part of five years’ probation for violating requirements of his probation in the 1991 case.

When he was sentenced last year, Cowans already had been jailed since at least June 1, 2012, court records show.

Cowans “got out and a day later attacked this woman in a very violent manner,” Coccaro said.

She said Cowans has a prior criminal history of violent sexual offenses in Hawaii and California. “He has no ties to Maui,” she said.

Police said Cowans is a registered sex offender who had been to the Wailuku Police Station to register as a sex offender on Friday before his arrest in the kidnapping and sexual assault.

Bail for Cowans had been set at $100,000, or $50,000 on each charge, which Coccarro said is standard bail for Class A felony offenses.

“But this is not the typical type offense, nor is he a typical defendant,” Coccaro said in asking for the increase.

Deputy Public Defender John Parker said Cowans wouldn’t be able to post bail “whether it’s $2,000 or $2 million.”

Parker objected to setting bail at $2 million, which he said was “excessive.” But he said he wouldn’t object to a lesser increase in bail.

Judge Adrianne Heely increased bail to $250,000 for each count.

When she asked Cowans whether he understood that he needed to report for supervision and random drug and alcohol testing if he posts bail to be released, Cowans nodded.

Parker said he had instructed Cowans “not to open his mouth at all, not to say anything” in court.

Parker said Cowans is the correct last name for the defendant, who is also known as Charles Cowan.

According to court records, Cowans was originally sentenced to a one-year jail term and five years’ probation in April 1992. Originally charged with attempted murder, he had pleaded no contest to kidnapping and a reduced charge of first-degree attempted assault for an attack on a former girlfriend at the Job Corps Center on the Maunaolu campus in Makawao in September 1991.

According to an article in The Maui News, Cowans went to the campus to talk to his former girlfriend and after he insisted they talk in a private place, they went into a bathroom near the cafeteria. Cowans locked the door and attempted to attack the woman with a steak knife. When the woman grabbed the blade and screamed, a Job Corps employee went to her rescue.

Court records show a bench warrant for Cowans’ arrest was filed in April 1993 based on allegations that he violated conditions of his probation. His next court appearance was in June 2012, when he was in custody, court records show.

A preliminary hearing for Cowans is scheduled for Wednesday afternoon in Wailuku District Court.

* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at