Sex assault suspectBy Rod Thompson
denied freedom by
Big Isle judge
HILO - Albert Ian Schweitzer, previously suspected of the 1991 murder of Big Island newcomer Dana Ireland and now charged with the 1992-94 sexual assault of a preschool girl, pleaded with a Big Island judge for his freedom yesterday.
Responding that there was no way to assure the safety of the community with Schweitzer free, Judge Riki May Amano rejected the plea and ordered him held without bail.
Schweitzer, 27, and his brother Shawn, 23, were charged with Ireland's death in 1997, but the charges were dropped a year later. Prosecutors left open the possibility of refiling the charges.
Schweitzer also was charged with sexual assault last year and released on bail. He admitted yesterday that he violated bail while living on Kauai by testing positive for using marijuana.
"Ever since I've been targeted by the prosecution, my life has been a living nightmare," Schweitzer told the judge.
Unable to sleep at night, he tried to get help, going from one psychologist to another to another, he said. All refused to treat him "because of the propaganda through the media."
He said he used marijuana once.
"I can promise you that I won't be a threat to the community. I've never been in trouble in my life until I was targeted by this prosecution. Shouldn't that count for something?" he asked.
Leonard Rapozo Jr., the Kauai Intake Service Center official who discovered Schweitzer failed the drug test, was in court to recommend that Schweitzer be released on a work program but wear an electronic monitoring device.
Schweitzer's attorney, James Biven, said it was a stretch to say his client posed a threat to the community.
A deputy prosecutor said Schweitzer was intoxicated at the time of the alleged sexual assaults against the young child.
Pacific whale groupBy Gary T. Kubota
may face fines
WAILUKU -- A federal agency is seeking to levy thousands of dollars in civil fines against the Pacific Whale Foundation for allegedly violating federal laws governing whale research.
The Maui group could face between $13,000 and $189,000 in fines for the seven alleged violations, said Paul Ortiz, a senior enforcement attorney for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
"Settlement negotiations have been ongoing," Ortiz said.
"At this point the federal agency is interested in payment of a civil penalty only. They (foundation officials) will not lose their permit because of these violations."
Foundation President Greg Kaufman said the alleged violations stem from a single employee who failed to maintain records.
Kaufman said the foundation plans to challenge the violations and fines.
"We've had federal and state permits for 20 years," Kaufman said.
"This is an unfortunate incident that occurred through the actions of one individual. We're going to have our day in court."
Ortiz said most of the seven charges stem from failing to maintain records and failing to report approaches to whales within 100 yards of a research vessel in January and February 1998.
Federal law prohibits anyone from approaching within 100 yards of a humpback unless they have a research permit. Ortiz said the foundation also is charged with operating without a valid research permit on Jan. 4, 1998.
The foundation obtained a permit the following day, he added.
Kaufman said the group had a federal permit and the allegation stems from a miscommunication on the starting date of the research.
The charges, filed March 3, also include failing to allow inspection of records by providing false records, and failing to report underwater approaches and photography within 100 yards of whales.
The agency alleges the foundation allowed an unauthorized research assistant to operate the vessel Naiad while conducting research.
Closed Maui constructionBy Gary T. Kubota
landfill to reopen
WAILUKU -- The Maui Planning Commission is allowing a construction landfill closed because of a fire to reopen.
In a 5-1 vote yesterday, commissioners issued a special use permit for five years to Richard "Chick" DeCoite, despite protests from Maalaea residents who live a mile downwind from the site.
"I think it was a terrible mistake," said Jack Mueller, a member of the Maalaea Community Association. "It's a hell of a legacy."
The association asked the commission to require DeCoite to post a bond to make sure there would be enough to clean up a problem.
Commissioners indicated they were satisfied with existing state requirements that guarantee a landfill is closed properly.
DeCoite said he can't guarantee there will be no fire in the future. But he said precautions will be put in place.
County fire officials blamed a smoldering tree as the cause of a fire that burned for several weeks last year.
The commission imposed a number of new conditions on the permit, including the virtual exclusion of green waste and sofas and carpets.
A spotter is also to inspect all waste material as it is deposited in a pit and DeCoite is required to bury the material in dirt compartments to reduce the ability of the fire to spread. DeCoite's previous permit expired Sept. 30, 1997. DeCoite was ordered to cease operation last April.