12-year minimum term is set in Manoa robbery
The parole board ignores Shaun Rodrigues' pleas of innocence
A Kailua man who steadfastly maintains that he did not commit a Manoa home invasion robbery nearly six years ago was ordered yesterday to spend a minimum of 12 years in prison.
Prosecutors said they are satisfied with the Hawaii Paroling Authority's decision, but attorneys for Shaun Rodrigues said they are "very, very disappointed" that an innocent man was given 12 years.
"All along the way, I was hoping beyond all hope that someone would look at this thing and really see what happened here and hoping the parole board would correct this injustice," said defense attorney William Harrison.
He said they might appeal the decision in federal court, and called it "really scary" that anyone can be identified as a potential suspect and sent to prison based on misidentification. "Anyone of us can be Shaun Rodrigues and sitting in jail -- that is beyond belief," Harrison said. "We are not going to give up on this. This is an innocent man sitting in jail. We can't give up."
Rodrigues maintained from the start that he was not the man who broke into the home of Dianne Sugihara, threatened her and her daughter at gunpoint, tied them up and searched their home.
The defense at trial contended that there was no physical evidence tying Rodrigues to the crime.
Rodrigues was convicted in March 2002 of first-degree robbery following an extended bench trial before Circuit Judge Virginia Crandall.
In her findings, Crandall found that the Sugiharas' identification of Rodrigues was "sufficiently reliable" and that the procedures used by police were not "impermissibly suggestive."
Noting the "compelling and credible testimony" by the Sugiharas, she discounted testimony from Rodrigues' family members, who all claimed he was at home sleeping at the time of the robbery.
In separate photo lineups, Sugihara and her daughter both picked out Rodrigues' picture almost immediately, saying his face "jumped out at them" and that they were sure as they could ever be that that was the man who had robbed them, Deputy Prosecutor Russell Uehara has said.
After yesterday's session, Uehara said the minimum sentence was "fair and appropriate."
"This is the most difficult trial I've ever had," Uehara told a reporter earlier this week, "but I have no doubt in my mind that it was Shaun Rodrigues who did this."
Uehara said the victims in this case, Dianne Sugihara and her daughter, Dawn, both would rather forget Rodrigues' face but cannot.
"His face is seared in their memory," he said. "I only hope they finally find some closure."
Rodrigues maintained at trial that the procedures Honolulu police used to conduct a photo lineup were flawed.
To support their argument that Rodrigues was misidentified, the defense has argued that the Sugiharas initially told police they could not identify the robber and gave descriptions that did not match Rodrigues. They say Dianne Sugihara did not realize that the man in the picture that she selected was of the man who had come to her Manoa home at least twice to install an alarm system and then later to maintain it.
Rodrigues had suggested that a man currently serving time for a similar Kailua home invasion robbery in Kailua in August 2000 might be one of possibly two men responsible for the Sugihara robbery. The Sugiharas' neighbors had told police that they had observed two men sitting on the wall by the Waioli Tea Room observing the homes in the area prior to the robbery.
Crandall rejected the defense's request to reopen the trial to introduce new evidence, and sentenced Rodrigues in January to 20 years' imprisonment.
Prosecutors have since shown the photos of the two men convicted in the Kailua home invasion to the Sugiharas, and they were adamant that neither was the one who robbed them, Uehara said.
The Hawaii Supreme Court upheld Rodrigues' conviction last December.
The three-member parole board had the entire case file to review and met with the state and Rodrigues earlier this month at Halawa prison for their chance to make final arguments. The board does not explain its reasons for its decision.
At the hearing, an emotional Rodrigues pleaded with the board to release him, saying he could not show remorse for something he did not do.
Star-Bulletin reporter Rod Antone contributed to this report.