Friday, February 2, 2001
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Posted on: Friday, February 2, 2001

Assault-on-disabled charges dismissed

By Christie Wilson
Advertiser Neighbor Island Editor

WAILUKU, Maui — A Maui judge yesterday dismissed sexual assault charges against an executive for a company that operates care homes for the developmentally disabled, but left the door open for prosecutors to pursue the case.

Robert L. Parrish, 52, was indicted last March 3 on second- and third-degree sexual assault and kidnapping charges after accusations that he molested and had intercourse with a 22-year-old Maalaea woman with Down syndrome who was under his care.

Parrish is vice president of Parrish Pacific Inc., a for-profit company headed by his wife, Mary Parrish. The company has a provisional state license to run its Ohaa Street residential care facility in Kahului with up to five developmentally disabled adults, and also has two respite homes in Kahului and Wailuku that do not require state licensing.

According to grand jury testimony contained in court documents, the woman's mother said her daughter told her that Parrish had driven her to his condominium in Kihei on Oct. 12, 1999, undressed her and had sex with her. Afterward, he washed her in the shower, she said.

Parrish denies it.

His original trial date was July 3, but Prosecutor Davelynn Tengan requested a delay to allow time for forensic analysis of evidence, including DNA testing.

A new trial date was set for Oct. 30.

Several days before trial was to begin, defense attorney Hayden Aluli sought to dismiss the charges on the grounds that the prosecution violated a rule requiring that a defendant be brought to trial within 180 days of arrest or indictment.

Second Circuit Judge Joseph Cardoza yesterday agreed with Aluli that the prosecution failed to show it had exercised "due diligence" in seeing that the evidence would be processed in an expedient manner, and so the trial delay could not be justified.

Cardoza pointed out that although evidence was gathered in October and November 1999, police crime lab personnel did not examine items until the following April.

Although the 180-day clock was not ticking at that time, the judge said it indicates there was a problem with getting evidence processed.

However, Cardoza said he was not going to dismiss the charges "with prejudice," which would have barred further prosecution. He said he was not willing to go that far because of the "extremely serious" nature of the charges and the fact that Parrish is in contact with individuals who the judge said are "vulnerable" to the type of conduct of which the defendant is accused.

The family of the developmentally disabled woman, who has been described as having the intellect of a 7-year-old, wants the case to go forward.

David Gierlach, attorney for the family, said, "The key issue is, what does the DNA show? The family wants to see justice done, wherever that takes them."

Aluli called the prosecution of his client a "witch hunt" and said prosecutors manipulated grand jury testimony to obscure information from a medical examination of the woman that indicated there was no physical sign of sexual assault.

"What's so disturbing is that (Parrish) is an innocent man being wrongfully accused," he said. "It's unfortunate that he still has this thing hanging over his head."

The Parrishes have been operating care homes on Maui since 1992. In the wake of the alleged sexual assault, state officials determined they were operating facilities on Central Avenue in Wailuku and One Street in Kahului as residential homes without proper licensing, according to Dianne Okumura of the Office of Health Care Assurance in the state Department of Health.

The company complied with a state order to stop residential care at the two homes, she said.

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