Batalona says he’s
learned his lesson

In a letter to the Star-Bulletin, the
convict says he does not want to be hated

Convicted bank robber Albert Batalona, the subject of an intense manhunt after his escape from the maximum-security unit of Halawa prison last month, says he was unfairly portrayed in the media as a "'machinegun tote'n' Yosamady Sam."

"There was so much negativity to what was reported about me, it even got 'me' thinking; 'Damn, who is this monster?'" Batalona wrote in a letter to the Star-Bulletin.

Batalona, 27, and two other inmates -- David Scribner, 20, and Warren Elicker, 25 -- broke out of Halawa on April 4 by tearing out the toilets in their cells and escaping through a utility shaft.

Batalona is serving a life term without parole for shooting at a police officer with an automatic rifle during a 1999 Kahala bank robbery.

In his letter, Batalona said he is not dangerous and that his actions during the escape showed that he is not violent.

"There's a million 'would-have-could-haves' that could have been done, that would have kept us on the streets till this day," Batalona wrote. "But instead of killing or doing other foolishness, I went straight to the mountains. On more than 2 occasions I interacted with the general public and no harm was done or even thought of."

Acting state Public Safety Director James Propotnick dismissed Batalona's comments as "nothing more than self-serving rhetoric intended to set himself up as one of society's victims instead of realizing that he is the problem."

Because he is serving the state's maximum life sentence already, Batalona wrote, "I could have killed everyone in lower Aiea Heights and faced nothing greater than I got sentenced to in 1999. The only people that seemed to worry about my escape are the people that know they did me wrong. (And I guess whoever else paid attention to the 'monstrous' picture that was painted of me.) And even they diddent need to worry, because I was out to try and make a new life. Not get revenge or hurt."

Batalona says four years in prison has changed him.

"I've come from soul consuming hate, to self awareness and peace. I've come to realize that there's more to life than hustling up the next dollar. Life is really about the things you all neglect out there ... walking on grass, looking up at the stars & moon without bars or a cage blocking your view, being stuck in traffic, going shopping, washing clothes at the laundrymat, catching the bus!!"

Batalona was recaptured on a city bus in Kaneohe on April 10 after a week-long manhunt involving more than 100 law enforcement officers each day. He and the other escapees were arrested just hours after they split up and came out of hiding. They told police they had survived in the dense forest above Hauula in Windward Oahu by living on bottled water, beef jerky and fruit.

Batalona wrote that he is educated, does not do drugs or smoke cigarettes and tries his best to be a family man.

"I admit it was stupid & lazy of me to try to do things the way I've done," Batalona said about the American Savings Bank robbery in 1999.

"There's millions of other things you take for granted everyday, things that I'll never do again. (maybe!!) It doesn't take me 20 years to say that the experiences I had ('99) were very inappropreate and uncivilized, and I've learned the lesson which society sought to teach me; that being: Don't buck the system, freedom is priceless, theres no free lunch in life ... and a thousand other lessons," Batalona wrote.

"I know everyone loves to hate the 'bad guy', but I'm not, the bad guy," he wrote. "I don't want to be hated. You want to hate something, hate 'the game', don't hate 'the player.'"

Propotnik said Batalona refuses to accept responsibility for his actions.

"It just serves to underscore the fact that he doesn't get it and he never will," Propotnick said.

He noted that Batalona fired 25 rounds from a fully automatic weapon at a Honolulu police officer and then escaped from prison.

"Now he wants us, society, to think he's really a good guy underneath it all. Who does he think he's kidding?"

City Prosecutor Peter Carlisle was not available for comment. Carlisle has said he will ask for an extended term for Batalona if he is convicted of escape.

The Star-Bulletin wrote to Batalona seeking comment after his initial appearance in District Court on April 11.


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