Kokua Line

By June Watanabe

Method of serving jail time
key in convict’s long record

Question: I read a story recently in the Star-Bulletin about police arresting 16-time convicted felon William Barnes after he allegedly tried to run over a police officer in Waikiki. Police said he has a history of violent escapes. But he was paroled recently after serving five years for a 1997 auto-theft conviction. So he was arrested also on a parole revocation. How come he was on parole in the first place?

Answer: According to his public "rap sheet" -- obtained through the Hawaii Criminal Justice Data Center -- Barnes was convicted in Hawaii for 16 felonies, five petty misdemeanors or misdemeanors, and one violation between 1985 and 1997. He was released twice on parole during that period.

It's been confusing trying to figure out Barnes' criminal history and how much time he actually served for different crimes. It turns out that Barnes has a criminal history for auto theft and receiving stolen property that went back to 1982 in California, but that record does not show up on his Hawaii rap sheet.

Determining exactly how Barnes managed to be released after serving minimum sentences for multiple offenses would require a detailed look at his crimes, trials, presentence reports and parole hearings.

But basically, the paroling authority -- also known as the parole board -- "looks at a lot of factors" when setting minimum sentences, according to Tommy Johnson, its administrator. They include the nature of the crime; degree of loss to personal life or property; the offender's criminal history; the offender's role in the crime; the offender's role in solving the crime once arrested; impact statements from victims and/or their family members; and what the law or courts might specify in terms of sentencing.

In helping to trace down Barnes' criminal history, Johnson turned up a criminal record in California, but he said he did not know if the Hawaii parole board was aware of those convictions when it last set his minimum sentences in 1997.

Although Barnes had multiple felony convictions in Honolulu, most of them were tied to two incidents involving stolen vehicles.

Johnson said the courts determine whether sentences for multiple offenses are to be served consecutively (one after another) or concurrently (all at the same time). In Barnes' case, his multiple sentences were served concurrently.

Here's the breakdown for his felonies:

In 1985, Barnes was convicted of two counts of first-degree theft. The court set a minimum sentence of five years in prison for each, to be served concurrently, and the parole board set a minimum sentence of two years before parole could be considered, which Johnson said "is standard."

However, Barnes was serving a sentence in California for vehicle theft and receiving stolen property at the time, so he waived his right to be here for his hearing, Johnson said.

The Hawaii parole board decided to have him serve his Hawaii prison time simultaneously in California. The parole board in many jurisdictions will sometimes parole a prisoner to "the other sentence" in another state, especially if the sentence in the other state is longer, Johnson said. "As long as we have a detainer on a person (as Hawaii did), they can't parole or program them (out)."

When he was released from prison in California, Barnes returned to Hawaii and was placed under "our supervision" to meet the terms of his Hawaii parole, Johnson said.

In 1989, Barnes was back in prison here for technical violations of parole. He asked for parole in 1989 and again in 1990 and was denied both times. However, later in 1990, he completed his original sentence and was released from prison, Johnson said.

In 1991, Barnes was convicted of second-degree theft for a 1989 crime (although his rap sheet doesn't show a conviction until 1996 because of an appeal). The court sentenced him to five years in prison, but set a mandatory minimum sentence of three years, four months. The parole board also set his minimum sentence at three years, four months.

In 1994, Barnes was arrested on eight counts relating to one incident in which he tried to ram police vehicles with stolen vehicles. He was convicted in 1996 on all eight counts, including for unauthorized control of a propelled vehicle, criminal property damage, negligent injury and causing serious bodily injury. He was sentenced in December 1997.

In 1995, he was arrested for unauthorized control of a propelled vehicle, attempted assault and criminal property damage. He was convicted in 1996 of four counts related to that crime and sentenced in September 1997.

In January 1997, he was arrested for unauthorized control of a propelled vehicle, and convicted and sentenced in September 1997.

In all three cases, the court set minimum sentences of five to 10 years for each count, but allowed the sentences to be served concurrently.

The parole board then set a minimum sentence of five years on all 12 sentences, Johnson said.

Barnes was released from prison last year, but a warrant was issued for his arrest on Dec. 31 for failure to report to his parole officer and for possession of methamphetamine. After the warrant was issued, the parole board discovered police were looking for him for allegedly trying to ram a police car with a stolen vehicle on Jan. 4.

At this point, Barnes "is back in jail on parole violation and new charges," Johnson said. "Since he's pending new charges, we would not release him even at the parole violation hearing as long as the new charges are pending. Those have to be adjudicated first." Barnes is scheduled to go before the parole board in March.

According to the Hawaii Paroling Authority's annual report for July 1, 2001, to June 30, 2002, it fixed the minimum sentences for 889 people who were involved in a total of 3,076 convictions. A total of 1,798 parole hearings were held, in which 1,089 paroles were granted, 644 were denied and 65 were deferred.

The board conducted 541 parole violation hearings in which 467 paroles were revoked, 71 were continued and three were deferred (pending more information).


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