WAILUKU - A 61-year-old Wailuku man was sentenced to a one-year jail term for sexually molesting two homeless children after offering to take them home for the night.
"You took advantage of them being homeless and probably helpless," 2nd Circuit Judge Rhonda Loo told Steven Sabagala. "They were vulnerable, and they were innocent."
Sabagala was placed on five years' probation as part of his sentence Wednesday.
He had pleaded no contest to two counts of third-degree sexual assault, with the prosecution dismissing three other sexual assault charges.
Sabagala was considered part of the extended family when he told the parents he would take the children, ages 8 and 10, for the night so they wouldn't have to sleep on the beach, said Deputy Prosecutor Kim Whitworth.
"He took them back to his house, gave them food, let them watch whatever they wanted on TV," Whitworth said. "He made them shower and then sexually molested them."
That occurred May 30, 2010, according to court records.
The next day, Sabagala returned the children to their parents, Whitworth said. She said he later went back and told the parents he would take all four children for the night. "Instead, one of the children broke down and disclosed" what Sabagala had done, Whitworth said.
"It was a planned, calculated thing he did," she said. "And then he came back, probably to victimize them again and victimize their siblings."
While Whitworth recommended the one-year jail term, Deputy Public Defender Greg Ball asked that Sabagala be released Wednesday to live with his brother in a more stable home.
At the time the children were molested, Sabagala was "essentially homeless," Ball said, and "was able to borrow a friend's house as the venue for the crimes."
"I'd like to say sorry to the family," Sabagala said in court.
Sabagala, who already has spent more than five months in jail, has no prior criminal record.
"He's never gotten caught before or he never took the opportunity before to sexually molest children," Whitworth said. "But it's not something you start doing out of the blue."
Sabagala was ordered to complete sex offender treatment and have no contact with children. He also was ordered to have no contact with the victims and to stay away from the beach park in the area known as River Mouth near Kaae Road in Wailuku.
* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.