Jury set to decide fate of 'Aiea dance teacher
By Ken Kobayashi
Advertiser Courts Writer
By Ken Kobayashi
A Circuit Court jury is scheduled to begin deliberations today on sex assault charges against a 21-year-old former 'Aiea dance instructor accused of molesting five young students.
The jury yesterday began hearing closing arguments in the three-week trial after Daniel E. Jones declined to take the stand and testify in his defense.
City Deputy Prosecutor Thalia Murphy urged the panel to find Jones guilty because he "violated the innocence of the five young girls."
Jones' lawyer, Myron Takemoto, argued that the prosecution failed to prove that a dance instructor trusted by the girls and their families suddenly turned into a "serial child molester."
Jones, 21, a former dance instructor at the Rosalie Woodson Dance Academy in 'Aiea, is charged with four counts of first-degree sex assault on one of the girls. Each of the first-degree assault charges carries a maximum 20-year prison term. He's also charged with third-degree sex assault on the other four girls. The third-degree charge carries a prison term of up to five years.
The girls were all dance students at the studio. Jones is charged with molesting them when they were 12 to 15 years old on separate occasions in 2004 and 2005 at locations that included the studio.
Jones, who is free on bond and has never discussed the allegations in detail publicly, told Circuit Judge Virginia Crandall that it was his decision to not take the witness stand.
During the closing, Murphy told the jury that Jones had betrayed the trust and friendship of the girls and their parents. She highlighted a meeting at the dance studio in March last year when Jones was confronted with the allegation that he molested one of the girls.
"What would an innocent person say?" Murphy said. "An innocent person would say, 'You got to be kidding me. What are you saying? I can't believe this.'
"Instead, the defendant comes up with, 'I don't remember.' "
Takemoto, who has maintained the prosecution does not have any other evidence or witnesses to corroborate the girls' testimony, said each of the girls has "serious credibility problems."
The students talked among themselves and came up with similar allegations that the police and prosecutors accepted at face value, he said.
He said the girl who made the first-degree sex assault allegations was "obsessed" with Jones, but he told her he was too old for her. "Don't underestimate the power of teenage rejection," Takemoto said.
The lawyers are scheduled to finish their closing arguments today. The case then goes to the jury.
Reach Ken Kobayashi at firstname.lastname@example.org.