WAILUKU - A California man is facing a prison term of 20 to 40 years after he pleaded no contest Thursday to a reduced charge of manslaughter in the killing of his girlfriend, whose body was found last year near Nakalele Point.
Gerald Galaway Jr., 39, of Santa Cruz also pleaded no contest to kidnapping.
In exchange for his pleas, the prosecution dismissed another charge of attempted first-degree sexual assault.
Gerald Galaway Jr., with his attorney William Sloper, signs a form acknowledging his no-contest pleas Thursday morning in 2nd Circuit Court. Galaway pleaded no contest to a reduced charge of manslaughter, as well as kidnapping, in the killing of 35-year-old Celestial Dove Cassman near Nakalele Point last year.
The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo
Galaway was originally indicted on a charge of second-degree murder in the killing of 35-year-old Celestial Dove Cassman, also of Santa Cruz, on Sept. 1. A conviction on the second-degree murder charge would have carried a sentence of life with the possibility of parole.
When asked about the plea agreement to the reduced charge, First Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Robert Rivera said he had no comment.
A witness reported seeing Galaway slamming Cassman to the ground, then holding her in a chokehold and dragging her into bushes as she kicked and screamed near Mile Marker 38 on Kahekili Highway.
When police went to the area, in response to a report of a domestic dispute, a half-clothed Galaway ran from officers and jumped off a 100-foot cliff into the ocean.
Police found Cassman's body, with an autopsy later showing that she died of asphyxiation.
Galaway spent the night on a rocky outcropping before police and firefighters retrieved him by helicopter the next morning. He was hospitalized for more than a week.
Police said Galaway and Cassman had arrived on Maui the day before she was killed and were staying together at a Kaanapali hotel. She was a deputy city attorney for Santa Cruz and two other coastal California towns. He was working as a behavior technician for an autistic student at Easter Seals, according to his Facebook page.
In court Thursday, 2nd Circuit Judge Joseph Cardoza asked Galaway if he wanted to take advantage of a plea agreement with the prosecution instead of going to trial or pursuing motions to fight the charges.
"Yes, your honor," he replied.
Galaway's attorney, William Sloper, said that he had discussed with Galaway the possibility of filing pretrial motions over the alleged illegal search of his rental vehicle at the crime scene and an alleged illegal photograph identification procedure, as well as the alleged violation of his 6th Amendment right to an attorney, which he was denied while hospitalized.
In addition, Sloper said there were 17 jurors present when the case was presented to a Maui County grand jury, with one removed before the jurors voted on the case. By law, 16 grand jurors must be present.
Both the manslaughter and kidnapping charges are Class A felonies carrying penalties of up to 20 years in prison. As part of the plea agreement, the prosecution agreed not to seek extended terms that could have lengthened the terms to life in prison with the possibility of parole.
The prosecution can seek consecutive prison terms totaling 40 years, while the defense can argue for a concurrent sentence of 20 years in prison when Galaway is sentenced Sept. 11.
Rivera said the date was chosen to accommodate Cassman's family so they could attend the sentencing hearing.
"Are you absolutely certain you want to enter pleas of no contest to these two charges?" Cardoza asked Galaway.
"Yes, your honor," he replied.
Galaway has been incarcerated on a no-bail warrant since his arrest.
* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at email@example.com.