Jury acquits man of first-degree sexual assault of minor

Panel unable to reach a verdict on other charges

WAILUKU — A man who denied sexually assaulting a 9-year-old girl was acquitted of two felony charges Monday.

Duane Kawika Kaluau, 37, was released on supervision after a 2nd Circuit Court jury returned the not-guilty verdicts on two counts of first-degree sexual assault.

Jurors, who deliberated for about two days beginning last Thursday, couldn’t reach verdicts on other charges of first-degree sexual assault and third-degree sexual assault against Kaluau.

He was indicted on the charges after the girl told family members Kaluau had sexually molested her, and police were called to investigate, according to testimony during the trial.

Kaluau, who is related to the girl, had been staying with her family at their Kahului residence when the girl said she was sexually assaulted one night in February 2016.

She testified she was sleeping feet-to-feet with Kaluau on the couch when he woke her up, pulled down her shorts and underwear and began sexually assaulting her. When her brother came out of a bedroom, the girl said she took her clothes and ran into the bedroom.

“She talked about it and tried to describe these sexual acts no 9-year-old should know about,” Deputy Prosecutor Kristin Coccaro said in closing arguments to jurors Thursday. “She described what she felt happening to her the best way she could.

“Never once has she changed her story.”

Deputy Public Defender Danielle Sears told jurors that someone in the two-bedroom cottage or a neighbor likely would have heard something if Kaluau had sexually assaulted the girl.

“It simply did not happen,” Sears said. “This whole case is about a false accusation of a 9-year-old girl.

“Kawika is accused of doing one of the most horrible things that one can think of — sexually assaulting a child. Being accused is not enough. It might be enough for her mother and her family. And it appears to be enough for the attorneys of the government since we have gotten this far. But it can’t be for you — not when there is absolutely no corroborating evidence.”

Coccaro called it “outrageous” to say nothing happened.

She said there were numerous reasons there were no observable injuries to the girl, who was examined in May 2016 when she reported what had happened about three months earlier.

By then, Kaluau had moved out of the family’s house.

Testifying in his defense during the trial, Kaluau said he left because he was afraid of the girl’s father and “couldn’t afford it anymore.”

He said he was prescribed 90 oxycodone pills a month for medical conditions and would give the father 30 of them as rent. But then he said the shortage of medication began to affect him.

When Sears asked if Kaluau had inappropriately touched the girl or committed sexual acts on her, Kaluau said no.

Under cross-examination, Kaluau acknowledged that the family had trusted him around the girl and her brothers. Kaluau also acknowledged that the girl didn’t have anything against Kaluau and there was no reason for her to make up what she said.

After the verdicts were announced, Judge Peter Cahill granted a defense request for supervised release for Kaluau, who had spent 18 months in jail while unable to post $600,000 bail.

Kaluau was ordered to report for supervision and random drug and alcohol testing. He also was ordered to have no contact with the girl and her family and to stay away from their residence.

A June 4 trial was set for Kaluau on the two remaining charges.

Three other charges — two counts of first-degree sexual assault and third-degree sexual assault — were dismissed after Cahill said no evidence of the charges had been presented in the prosecution’s case.

“The jury had a hard job,” Sears said after the verdicts were announced. “This kind of case can be very emotional. They appeared to take their job very seriously.”

* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at lfujimoto@mauinews.com.