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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Tuesday, August 31, 2004

No Iraq duty for convict

By Ken Kobayashi
Advertiser Courts Writer

A Hawai'i National Guardsman will be deactivated from deployment to Iraq to clear the way for sentencing in the Manoa home invasion robbery for which he was found guilty 2 1/2 years ago.

Shaun Rodrigues
City Deputy Prosecutor Russell Uehara notified Circuit Judge Virginia Crandall yesterday that Shaun Rodrigues will be deactivated Wednesday to enable him to be in court Sept. 10.

Rodrigues' activation into the Army was the latest hurdle to the sentencing, which typically occurs within two to four months of conviction but has been repeatedly postponed. No one can recall a sentencing that has taken as long after a conviction.

Uehara said Rodrigues' ability to avoid sentencing was a "miscarriage of justice."

He previously said the postponements frustrated the two robbery victims.

"I'm sure they're going to be pleased because once he's sentenced, there's closure," the prosecutor said yesterday.

Rodrigues' lawyer William Harrison maintains that his client is innocent and said he will ask Crandall to allow his client to remain free on bail while he appeals the conviction, a process that easily could take longer than a year.

Uehara said he will oppose that request.

Rodrigues, 24, who has remained free on $75,000 bail, faces a mandatory prison term. He was found guilty of burglary, armed robbery and the kidnapping of Dawn Sugihara and her mother, Dianne, in July 2000.

Rodrigues will get at least a maximum 20-year term in prison. Uehara also plans to ask Crandall to extend the sentence to a life term with parole because of the multiple offenses.

Although Crandall found Rodrigues guilty in March 2002 at the end of a nonjury trial, she did not file her 27-page findings to clear the way for the sentencing until December 2003. The sentencing was again postponed after Harrison asked for time to investigate evidence to show that another man committed the crimes.

The latest postponement came last week when Crandall was notified that Rodrigues was activated on Aug. 16 for deployment to Iraq and to serve for no more than 545 days. One of the issues was whether Rodrigues could be pulled from the Army to return for the sentencing.

But yesterday, Uehara told Crandall that, at his request and with the help of National Guard and Army officials, Rodrigues will be released from active duty.

Uehara later said the reason is Rodrigues' pending sentencing, in addition to another case that is pending trial alleging that Rodrigues tried to break into another home in Manoa and used a gun to threaten a man just two days before the Sugihara robbery.

Under the Uniform Military Code of Justice, Rodrigues should never have been activated, Uehara said.

He said he did not know who authorized the activation, but wondered whether Rodrigues fully disclosed his criminal cases to his commander.

Maj. Charles Anthony, spokes-man for the Hawai'i National Guard, confirmed that Rodrigues will be deactivated.

Rodrigues, who is at Schofield Barracks, could not be reached for comment.

"He loves his country and wants to serve his country and should be entitled to serve his country," Harrison said.

"He knows he's innocent," Harrison said. "He holds his head up high."

Harrison also will be asking for a new trial based on what he says is new evidence implicating another man in the robbery. He said the only basis for linking Rodrigues to the armed robbery is the two women mistakenly identifying Rodrigues as the gunman.

Uehara, who will oppose the new trial request, said Harrison has failed to produce "hard evidence" that another man committed the crimes.

"They (the Sugiharas) are intelligent, educated, honest women," Uehara said. "In their hearts, they know that they identified the right person."

Reach Ken Kobayashi at kkobayashi@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8030.