Ex-school counselor
acquitted of sex
assault charges

2 girls had accused
Allan Sagayaga of
fondling them last year

By Treena Shapiro

A Circuit Court jury acquitted a former Mililani Middle School counselor of charges that he fondled two girls last year.

Prosecutors had charged Allan Sagayaga with two counts of third-degree sexual assault. There was scattered applause, tears and gasps of relief as the verdicts by a jury of seven women and five men were read in court yesterday.

"I feel really relieved," said Sagayaga's wife, Sheri. "We waited one year to tell our story."

The 14-year-old girls and their families were not in the courtroom.

Sagayaga's supporters filled two benches.

Sheri Sagayaga said, "In our hearts we believed the truth, and it was really hard due to some people's speculation and things like that, but I know in our hearts that our friends believe the truth came out."

Because she works with troubled teens, Sheri Sagayaga said that the girls' accusations did not surprise her.

"I just really think that the teachers and the counselors in the (state Department of Education) really need a lot more protection, and I think that people should be accountable for what they say."

One girl had accused Sagayaga of kissing and hugging her and touching her breast in March 2001.

Her friend accused him of hugging and kissing her and touching her buttock in February 2001.

If he had been found guilty, he would have faced up to five years in prison for each count.

Deputy prosecuting attorney Thalia Murphy said the girls were brave for coming forward.

"It took a lot of guts for them to do this," she said. "Children who are victims of sexual assault usually delay telling, particularly when the perpetrator is someone known to them."

Sagayaga testified on Tuesday that one of the girls had initiated the hug and kiss that March, but he pushed her away, reprimanded her and told her that it was inappropriate.

He said the incident the other girl accused him of never happened.

His attorney, Keith Shigetomi, said that he believed Sagayaga swayed the jury.

"I think his testimony was the most compelling, that he said to a jury -- looked them in the eye -- and said, 'I didn't do it,'" Shigetomi said.

The DOE terminated Sagayaga last year.

His wife said that he had not yet decided whether to return.

"We're just going to move on with our lives," she said.

Returning to the public schools is an option, according to DOE spokesman Greg Knudsen.

"If there's no conviction record, then he should remain eligible for return," Knudsen said.

Murphy did not comment on whether she felt Sagayaga should be allowed to return to the DOE, and said only, "I believe the girls in this case."

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