West Maui Rep. Brian Blundell pleaded no contest yesterday to charges of fourth-degree sexual assault. Blundell was arrested July 15 for allegedly groping an undercover police officer outside a Kapiolani Park men's restroom.

Plea deferral sought
in sex case

A legislator pleads no contest to
groping an undercover officer

Prosecutors are objecting to a Maui legislator's request for a chance to wipe his record clean after he pleaded no contest yesterday to a fourth-degree sexual assault charge.

West Maui Rep. Brian Blundell, who is running for re-election, said in District Court in Honolulu that he wanted to take full responsibility for his actions.

The freshman Republican, 63, was arrested July 15 for allegedly groping an undercover police officer outside a Kapiolani Park men's restroom.

Howard Luke, Blundell's attorney, said his client was willing to speak to reporters because he is a public figure and believes strongly that his constituents have a right to be informed. But Blundell, at the advice of his attorney, declined to discuss the incident because the case is pending sentencing.

Blundell has asked the court to defer his no-contest plea, which would allow his record to remain clear if he stays out of trouble for a year and abides by court-imposed conditions. Luke said he expects the request will be granted.

The state, however, is opposing the request.

"Our office objects to the deferral, and it has nothing to do with the fact of who he is," said Deputy Prosecutor Leilani Tan Ching. "The seriousness of sex assault in the fourth degree applies to anybody, whether it's a person on the street or a community leader such as Mr. Blundell."

District Judge Lono Lee ordered a pre-sentence investigation and set a hearing on the matter for Nov. 5, three days after the general election.

Luke said he might ask that the hearing be advanced so that the electorate can be informed about the disposition of the case. But he noted they were not seeking any favors or asking that his client be treated differently from anyone else.

"We're not seeking anything other than what I believe is totally and completely entitled to under the law and really in the interest of justice," Luke said.

Blundell said he would have preferred that his case be disposed of yesterday, but will abide by the court date.

Fourth-degree sexual assault, which involves sexual contact without the victim's consent, is a misdemeanor punishable by a year in jail and a $2,000 fine or probation.

Blundell said he does not believe his arrest had a huge effect on his re-election campaign, but noted that he was unopposed until it happened. Two Democrats are now running in the Sept. 18 primary for a chance to run against Blundell.

"I'm just moving ahead with the campaign, and I'm going to work very hard to get elected," he said.

A misdemeanor conviction or a deferral would not affect Blundell's candidacy. Under state law, only felony convictions would bar a candidate from running or holding public office.

His only daughter, 25, who lives on the mainland and whom he visited last month, is totally supportive, said Blundell, whose eyes watered as he spoke of her. "Her comment was, 'No matter what,' she says, 'you're still my dad.'"

Luke said Blundell has suffered many personal losses in his family in recent years, including the death of his wife and other family members, but still has served his constituents well.

"He's a very, very decent human being," Luke said.



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