Judge schedules sentencing for man in 2006 rape case

WAILUKU – More than four years after his conviction, a Kihei man has been ordered to be returned to Maui to be sentenced for raping a passenger while he worked as a taxicab driver in Lahaina.

David T. Fleming, 54, was ordered Friday to be discharged from the Hawaii State Hospital, following a May 29 court finding that he is mentally fit to proceed in his case.

Second Circuit Judge Rhonda Loo ordered that Fleming be transferred to the Maui Community Correctional Center and be held without bail until his sentencing July 2.

For the court hearing Friday, Fleming appeared by teleconference from the Hawaii State Hospital, where he has been undergoing psychiatric treatment since September 2012.

Defense attorney Hayden Aluli asked that no action be taken in Fleming’s case until the state Supreme Court considers his petition challenging some trial court orders. Aluli said he was notified last week that the Hawaii Supreme Court wants to hear oral arguments on the petition.

“He is in a safe environment,” Aluli said. “He is going through restoration classes.”

During a jury trial in January 2010, Fleming was found guilty of first-degree sexual assault of a 24-year-old woman the night of May 9, 2006. Fleming had been working as a taxicab driver when he picked up the woman outside a Lahaina bar and drove her to her apartment three minutes away. The woman testified that after she paid the fare and got out, Fleming pushed her up against the taxicab and raped her in the complex parking lot.

After the verdict, Fleming’s sentencing was put on hold after he was examined by three psychiatrists or psychologists and found mentally unfit. Then-2nd Circuit Judge Joel August concluded that, based on the examiners’ testimony, Fleming didn’t need to be committed to the Hawaii State Hospital but could maintain outpatient psychiatric treatment.

But in September 2012, after finding Fleming hadn’t complied with court-ordered requirements of his release, Loo ordered that Fleming be committed to the Hawaii State Hospital.

The court ordered that he again be examined by three psychiatrists or psychologists. After considering expert testimony during hearings that began in February 2013 and continued at different intervals through February, Loo found Fleming mentally fit to proceed last month.

Before the judge’s ruling, Aluli repeatedly had sought Fleming’s release from the Hawaii State Hospital, said First Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Robert Rivera.

“Now that the court has made a ruling, he’s asking the court to keep him in the hospital,” Rivera said. “It makes absolutely no sense at all.”

Noting that the crime was committed in 2006 and Fleming was convicted in 2010, Rivera said “this is eight years after the defendant forcibly raped a female.”

“The victim does not feel we are rushing to sentencing,” Rivera said. “If anything, this is a case where justice has been denied because it has been delayed for eight years.”

Fleming is facing a mandatory 20-year prison term when he is sentenced.

* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at lfujimoto@mauinews.com.