WAILUKU - A Santa Cruz, Calif., man arrested in the killing of his girlfriend last year at Nakalele Point is asking to withdraw his no-contest pleas in the case, with his attorney saying the defendant "felt pressured by his family" to accept a plea deal.
Originally charged with second-degree murder, Gerald Galaway Jr., 39, pleaded no contest June 7 to a reduced charge of manslaughter and kidnapping in the killing of 35-year-old Celestial Dove Cassman, also of Santa Cruz, on Sept. 1.
The prosecution dismissed a charge of attempted first-degree sexual assault in exchange for his pleas.
Instead of life in prison with the possibility of parole, Galaway was facing a prison term of 20 to 40 years, with his sentencing scheduled for Sept. 11.
But in a motion filed last week by defense attorney William Sloper, Galaway asked to withdraw the pleas.
The motion says Galaway "was concerned with the financial burden a trial would have on his family" and "did not understand that he could have a court-appointed attorney represent him at no cost to himself or his family."
Sloper was hired to represent Galaway shortly after he was hospitalized after the killing.
Police went to the area near Mile Marker 38 on Kahekili Highway the evening of Sept. 1 after a resident driving toward Kahakuloa Village reported that Cassman ran up to her vehicle for help. Galaway ran up after Cassman, grabbed her from behind and wrapped one arm around her neck while telling the resident that "everything is fine" and pulling Cassman away, according to court records.
The resident reported seeing Galaway lift Cassman and slam her body on the asphalt roadway several times before dragging her by the head into shrubbery on the makai side of the road. The resident reported feeling intimidated before leaving to call 911.
When police arrived, they encountered Galaway, who was naked from the waist down. He ran from officers and jumped off a 100-foot cliff into the ocean. He spent the night on a rocky outcropping before police and firefighters retrieved him by helicopter the next morning.
Cassman's body was found under a tree. An autopsy showed that she had been strangled to death.
Cassman and Galaway had arrived on Maui the day before she was killed and were staying together at a Kaanapali hotel.
During his change-of-plea hearing, which lasted nearly 40 minutes, Galaway was asked if he wanted to take advantage of the plea agreement instead of going to trial or pursuing motions to fight the charges.
"Yes, your honor," he replied.
He had the same response when 2nd Circuit Judge Joseph Cardoza asked Galaway if he was certain he wanted to enter no-contest pleas to the charges.
In his motion, Sloper said Galaway didn't have a clear mind when he entered the no-contest pleas and had been under psychiatric care at Oahu Community Correctional Center before entering the pleas. The motion also says Galaway believes a mental defense wasn't fully explored, and he "may have been affected by a physical or mental disease, disorder, or defect that would substantially impair the defendant's capacity to appreciate the wrongfulness" of his conduct.
The motion also says Galaway didn't understand what factors the judge would consider in determining whether to sentence Galaway to a 20-year prison term or a 40-year
prison term. He also didn't understand how the Hawaii Paroling Authority would set a minimum term he would have to serve before being eligible for parole, according to the motion.
During a court hearing Tuesday, the prosecution asked for time to obtain transcripts of the change-of-plea hearing before responding to Galaway's motion.
A Sept. 6 hearing date on the motion was set.
* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.