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Tuesday, October 17, 2000

Man charged in
sexual attacks on
teen girls claims
mistaken identity

By Suzanne Tswei

The prosecution says a former prison guard abducted four teen-age girls and forced three of them to perform sex acts. He also approached a fifth girl, but she escaped and took down the license number of his car.

The defense says it's a case of mistaken identity that has turned a innocent man's life into a nightmare.

The two opposing positions were outlined yesterday in the trial of James Allen Thompson. He is on trial for the third time for allegedly committing a notorious series of sexual attacks in Mililani in 1997. The two previous trials both ended in mistrial.

Thompson is charged with 22 counts of first-degree sexual assault, first-degree attempted sexual assault, third-degree sexual assault, fourth-degree sexual assault and kidnapping.

Prosecutor Rom Trader said Thompson preyed on girls walking alone in Mililani. He forced them into his car, instructing them to keep their heads in his lap while he drove them away. After he forced them into sexual acts, he would apologize, saying he was having difficulties with his wife or girlfriend.

Thompson is accused of abducting three girls at knifepoint and driving them to secluded areas where he forced them to perform oral sex and other sex acts.

A fourth girl escaped while they walked to his car.

Thompson stopped a fifth girl, but she also escaped after noting the license number of his car, Trader said. The girl reported that Thompson was masturbating while he asked her for directions to Zippy's restaurant in Mililani.

The girls were consistent in describing their assailant and the car, and all identified Thompson as their assailant, Trader said. But defense attorney Todd Eddins said the descriptions were inconsistent and the police lineup was flawed.

Thompson's arrest resulted from an atmosphere of "heightened anxiety" over reports of teen-age girls being abducted and assaulted. There was no physical evidence to connect Thompson to the assaults and moreover his client was elsewhere during some of the attacks.

"They got the wrong guy ... James Thompson is innocent. He didn't do these things to these girls," Eddins said.

The police lineup in which Thompson was identified as the culprit was "fixed" because police failed to follow proper procedures, Eddins said. The victims were not segregated and were allowed to discuss their choices, he said. The police also included in the lineup only one person who shared Thompson's physical traits.

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