Detective says
despite letter, Rodrigues
guilty of burglary

Two Honolulu police detectives said they have no doubt that the man convicted of a July 2000 Manoa home invasion is indeed guilty of the crime.

Shaun Rodrigues, 24, whose sentencing has been delayed numerous times since he was convicted in March 2002, is expected to be sentenced today unless Circuit Judge Virginia Crandall grants his request to reopen the case based on newly discovered evidence.

Rodrigues, of Kailua, faces maximum 20-year terms for two counts each of first-degree robbery and kidnapping and 10 years for first-degree burglary.

The defense and Rodrigues have adamantly maintained that he is innocent, was wrongly convicted and that another man serving time for another home invasion is the one responsible.

Among the evidence the defense has submitted in support of the motion to reopen the case is a three-page handwritten letter signed by Lt. Henry Nobriga, formerly a detective in the robbery detail and one of three who investigated the July 8, 2000, robbery of Dianne and Dawn Sugihara.

The Feb. 5 letter casts doubt on the thoroughness of the police investigation because of the actions of a third detective who has since died.

"It is my honest belief that despite Mr. Rodrigues' conviction, our investigation was not thorough enough to prove Mr. Rodrigues' guilt beyond a reasonable doubt," the letter quotes Nobriga as saying.

Nobriga said in an interview yesterday that the letter mis-characterizes a discussion he had earlier this year with Matt Levi, an investigator for the defense.

"Taking one sentence out of an hour-and-half-long conversation is not exactly the whole conversation and not exactly truthful," Nobriga said. "I know (Rodrigues) was guilty."

Nobriga said the letter was written by someone else and that Levi had asked him to sign it. He recalled going over the statement briefly, but it was about six months ago and he did not give it much thought because the conversation he had with the investigator did not contain any "earthshaking new ideas other than the fact we did the investigation the best we could."

Levi could not be reached for comment. William Harrison, Rodrigues' attorney, also could not be reached for comment.

The letter makes it appear that an innocent man has been convicted, Nobriga said, an opinion he disagrees with.

"Yeah, we can always make things better, but there was no doubt in this particular investigation as far as the detectives were concerned" that Rodrigues was the one who did it, Nobriga said.

Police looked into whether the Sugihara home had been repaired recently and learned an alarm had been installed. The man who robbed them had apparently entered the home through a window that did not set off the alarm.

After going over a list of employees who worked for the Sugiharas' alarm company, Rodrigues' name popped up, and his face was included in the photo lineup shown to the Sugiharas.

"In this case, they made good ID" and did not hesitate when they separately picked out Rodrigues' photo in a line-up two days later, Nobriga said.

Lt. Robert Cravalho, the lead detective in the case, said he was convinced Rodrigues was the perpetrator based on the evidence. He holds nothing against Rodrigues, but even if he had not been convicted, "I would still say, in my heart, I know he is the person involved."



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