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Judge dismisses murder indictment in Monsalve case

Prosecution has until Feb. 3 to recharge man who pleaded not guilty

Bernard Brown (seated) speaks with his attorney, Keith Shigetomi, in 2nd Circuit Court in Wailuku on Thursday. A judge granted the defense’s request to dismiss an indictment against Brown, who was charged with murder in connection with the disappearance of his former girlfriend, Moreira “Mo” Monsalve. The Maui News / LILA FUJIMOTO photo

WAILUKU — A judge Thursday granted a defense request to dismiss an indictment against Bernard Brown, who was charged with murder in connection with the disappearance of his former girlfriend nearly seven years ago.

In ordering that the dismissal be without prejudice, 2nd Circuit Judge Peter Cahill set a two-month time limit, giving the prosecution until Feb. 3 to recharge Brown in the case.

Until then, Cahill said Brown’s bail will continue.

Brown, 49, has been held in lieu of $1 million bail at the Maui Community Correctional Center after being indicted by a Maui County grand jury in September 2019 and brought back to Maui from Sacramento, Calif., to face the charge.

He had pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder of Moreira “Mo” Monsalve, a 46-year-old mother of three.

Family members, friends and co-workers described a “volatile relationship” between Brown and Monsalve, who had moved out of his apartment at Iao Parkside in Wailuku less than two weeks before she was last seen there the night of Jan. 12, 2014.

In a motion filed in July seeking to dismiss the indictment, Brown’s attorney, Keith Shigetomi, said there was insufficient evidence presented to the grand jury, excessive use of hearsay and an unfair grand jury proceeding.

“We feel that the court was correct in granting the dismissal,” Shigetomi said after the hearing Thursday. “He basically said we were correct in the grounds that we raised.”

Shigetomi said he believed the strongest point was that the grand jury proceeding was unfair, in part because one of the grand jurors was related to Monsalve’s daughter, Alexis Felicilda, who was a witness.

In addition, Shigetomi said an independent grand jury counsel provided more of a directive than was proper in responding to a juror’s question about how the prosecution arrived at the charge without specific testimony about what happened. “So they made the charge and now your job is to just find probable cause,” the grand jury counsel replied to the juror’s question, according to the motion.

“We filed the motion because we believed in it and obviously, the court agreed,” Shigetomi said.

Acting Maui County Prosecuting Attorney Robert Rivera declined to comment after the hearing.

Shigetomi said Brown would be released from jail if the prosecution doesn’t recharge him in the case within 60 days.

Judge Cahill said that if the prosecution goes forward and establishes probable cause to charge Brown again, he would be given credit for the time he has already spent in custody.

Cahill also ordered that Shigetomi continue to be appointed to represent Brown.

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

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