WAILUKU - More than eight years later, a former taxicab driver was sentenced Friday to a 20-year prison term for raping a Lahaina woman who was his passenger in 2006.
In a January 2010 trial, David T. Fleming, 54, of Kihei was found guilty of first-degree sexual assault of the woman, who testified she was slammed against the side of Fleming's taxi van and raped.
But his sentencing was delayed for more than four years, first after he was found mentally unfit, then during his treatment at the Hawaii State Hospital. He was found mentally fit to proceed in May, discharged from the hospital and transported to the Maui Community Correctional Center, where he was held in lieu of $250,000 cash-only bail.
DAVID T. FLEMING
“This case is without merit”
"Eight years, two months, nine days," Fleming said in court Friday, referring to the time that had elapsed since the May 9, 2006, incident.
He asked for mercy from the court, saying "this case is without merit."
"It's cost a lot of hardship to family, to me," Fleming said. "I don't think anybody's benefiting from me being out of circulation. I do wish to vote."
First Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Robert Rivera said that the time calculated by Fleming was also "the amount of time that the victim has been suffering."
"She didn't choose this," Rivera said.
That night, Fleming had been working as a taxi driver when the 24-year-old woman left a Lahaina bar after having drinks and got into his van that was outside the bar. He drove her to her apartment three minutes away. The woman testified that after she paid the fare and got out, Fleming shoved her up against the taxicab and raped her in the complex parking lot.
Rivera said that the woman went through an ordeal to report the rape, facing misconceptions that may occur with alcohol-facilitated rapes.
In letters to the court, Fleming's "family members are strongly engaged in victim-bashing, blaming her," Rivera said.
He noted that defense attorney Hayden Aluli had previously said Fleming is from a prominent family that has parks and beaches named after them.
Rivera said the victim was a caregiver to her father, who supported her in reporting the rape but died before the trial. She suffered panic attacks, lost jobs and struggled with caring for her children, he said.
"She's had to go through so much of an ordeal and suffering just to maintain her resolve that she was going to see this to the end," Rivera said.
After the guilty 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, 2nd Circuit Judge Rhonda 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 in May.
Rivera said the victim met a man and got married after the trial and knew Fleming's sentencing was being delayed after he hired a new attorney.
Investigators for the prosecutor's office unsuccessfully tried to find the woman to let her know that Fleming finally was being sentenced, Rivera said.
"Unfortunately, (the victim) isn't here for her day in court, for her to see and hear justice - which was delayed - being finally done," Rivera said. "She was not as interested in the amount of jail as that he be held accountable for his actions. It is so unfortunate that this case has been delayed so long that the victim is not able to participate."
Judge Loo said there was no choice but to sentence Fleming to the 20-year prison term required by law for his conviction.
Referring to Fleming's calculation of the eight years, two months and nine days that had gone by, Loo told Fleming: "I want you to multiply that by 10 or maybe even by 100 and feel the pain and the anguish and the worry that (the victim) has had to go through for the last eight years, two months and nine days."
"I will not delay justice any longer," Loo said.
* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.