Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Chuukese man agrees
to plead guilty in
rape of 8-year-old

Micronesian leaders protest the
immigrant should have a trial

A 40-year-old Micronesian immigrant accepted a plea agreement yesterday in the rape of an 8-year-old Waianae girl, over the objections of Micronesian community leaders.

Yomeo Eieta pleaded guilty to one count of first-degree sexual assault. In exchange the city prosecutor's office dropped three counts of first-degree sexual assault, one count of third-degree sexual assault and one count of kidnapping.

Eieta, a recent arrival from Chuuk of the Federated States of Micronesia, will receive a maximum 20 years' imprisonment and a $50,000 fine, avoiding the possibility of a life sentence. The court is required to impose a 20-year term, and the state will not seek extended terms of imprisonment, under the plea agreement.

Judge Richard Pollack asked Eieta to say in his own words what he did that makes him guilty.

Through an interpreter, Eieta briefly described raping the girl, knowing she was younger than 14.

According to a police affidavit, Eieta told the child to sit next to him while she waited for her grandmother outside the Waianae Neighborhood Community Center. He grabbed her, led her to a vacant lot across the street and forced her to strip, threatening to shoot her, then sexually assaulted her, the affidavit said.

Eieta, who is unemployed, was staying with his sister in Waianae, where he was arrested two days after the April 28 attack. Eieta, who had quit a job at Del Monte, made money by selling ice cakes to children, his sister had said.

Yesterday's hearing was delayed as Dr. Ymao Akitekit, president of Micronesians United, a community group that assists Micronesians in Hawaii, and Sisan Suda, another fellow Chuukese, urged Eieta to opt for a trial.

But Eieta's lawyer, deputy public defender William Jameson, warned Eieta that if he did not take the plea agreement, he would likely receive a life sentence.

Jameson told Akitekit and Suda, sitting in the courtroom: "Do you know the evidence in this case? Do you know the law in this case? That's what this case is about. ... Give advice on that."

Akitekit told the Star-Bulletin that Eieta did not remember what happened because "he was under the influence of liquor. I still think that he's innocent," he said.

About a dozen family members turned out to support Eieta, who is unmarried and has no children.

"He's a good person," said his niece Biana Reian. "The problem is my uncle doesn't understand English. I think that they just forced him to say guilty."

Outside the courtroom, city Prosecutor Peter Carlisle said the plea agreement was in the best interest of the state and of the child victim, who would not have to testify at a trial.

Eieta abided by a July 20 deadline imposed by the prosecutor's office to reach a negotiated plea to resolve the case quickly.

"The longer you drag something like this out, the more traumatic it can be to the victim of this type of offense."

Carlisle said the victim's family agreed to the plea agreement as an acceptable resolution after discussing the evidence, the strength of the case and the potential impact on the child of having to testify.

Carlisle said Eieta has no criminal record in Hawaii and that he was not aware of one in Micronesia.

Sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 26 at 10 a.m.

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