WAILUKU - A man who sexually molested a 10-year-old girl while he lived in a room in her family's home was sentenced Tuesday to a five-year prison term.
In seeking the prison sentence for Salome Telles Santos, Deputy Prosecutor Kim Whitworth said: "He violated her trust. He violated the trust of this family."
Originally charged with continuous sexual assault of a minor under age 14, Telles Santos, 35, had pleaded no contest to a reduced charge of third-degree sexual assault.
Deputy Public Defender Shelly Miyashiro said that the lesser charge was more appropriate and recommended probation for Telles Santos.
He has no prior criminal record and has worked for the same employer while on Maui, Miyashiro said.
"What happened was inappropriate, unacceptable and wrong, and Mr. Telles Santos is not here to dispute anything or make any excuses," Miyashiro said. "This is the first time he has been in trouble, the first time he has been in custody."
The sexual molestation occurred in 2009 and 2010 while Telles Santos was living with the girl's family, Whitworth said.
"He would buy the kids presents and treat them really nice and give them special attention, especially the complaining witness," Whitworth said. "And then he began going into her room at night and touching her while everyone was sleeping."
The girl's 6-year-old brother, who slept in the same room, was a witness to the sexual assaults, Whitworth said.
She said the girl asked her mother to buy a lock for the bedroom. When the mother asked why, the girl told her what Telles Santos was doing.
Whitworth said the family asked Telles Santos to leave their home and Maui, saying they wouldn't seek prosecution if he did that. "They felt that was the way to handle that within their community," Whitworth said.
Telles Santos left but returned a year later in 2011.
The family was afraid, Whitworth said.
Because the girl's mother doesn't speak English, the family found someone who speaks Spanish and English to help, going to police in March 2011.
Telles Santos gave a Lahaina address when he was arrested Sept 27. Since then, he has been incarcerated in lieu of $50,000 bail.
When he spoke to a probation officer who prepared a report for his sentencing, Telles Santos didn't take responsibility, instead saying the victim was in love with him and her mother was jealous, Whitworth said. She said he told the probation officer that the family lied to get him out of their home.
Telles Santos also said that a child under age 14 may be a sexual assault victim, depending on the kind of relationship occurring, Whitworth said.
"Clearly, this is a man who does not believe that sexual activity with children is wrong," she said.
"It's predatory. It's criminal. It has a lifelong effect, not only on the complaining witness but her entire family."
Miyashiro said Telles Santos' views may have been shaped by what happened to him when he was younger.
Speaking in court Tuesday, the girl's father said his family has been involved in the police investigation and has attended court hearings and counseling sessions for more than three years.
He asked the judge to "please do the right thing."
"He cannot come here and destroy my family," the father said.
Speaking in court through a Spanish interpreter, Telles Santos apologized.
Despite the defendant's words in court, 2nd Circuit Judge Joseph Cardoza said Telles Santos denied wrongdoing in the report prepared for his sentencing.
"It's not a requirement that the defendant accept responsibility," Cardoza said. "It is an important step in the process toward rehabilitation that the defendant understand the serious nature of the conduct and the need to correct his behavior."
Telles Santos was ordered to have no contact with the girl and her immediate family.
* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.