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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, May 25, 2006

Jury to return after meeting with judge

By Ken Kobayashi
Advertiser Courts Writer

The jury for a former 'Aiea dance instructor accused of molesting five students is scheduled to return to Circuit Court this morning after a snag in the deliberations prompted a closed-door hearing yesterday that included the jurors being questioned individually.

The panel was in its fifth full day of deliberations after a three-week trial for Daniel Jones, charged with molesting the five girls when they were 12 to 15 years old in 2004 and 2005.

Over objections by The Advertiser, Judge Virginia Crandall convened a hearing in her chambers in the afternoon with the prosecutor, defense attorneys, Jones and a court reporter who transcribed the proceedings.

City Deputy Prosecutor Thalia Murphy later declined to comment.

Jones' attorney, Myron Takemoto, said jurors will return to court today, and that he is "99 percent sure" the panel will resume deliberations.

He said the chambers hearing included the 12 jurors being questioned individually. He said it was to "resolve" a communication from the jury, adding that he did not want to say what the note said because he did not want to affect the outcome of the case.

"We just want to get approval from the court before saying anything," he said.

Jeffrey Portnoy, The Advertiser's attorney, said, "An on-the-record chambers conference is not dissimilar from closing a courtroom and should be done only after a hearing to permit the public and the media to object, and only after the court makes findings that there are no other viable alternatives.

"We hope that the record of the proceeding will be made immediately available so that the public will understand what the issues are in this highly visible trial."

The jury began deliberations the afternoon of May 17.

According to the prosecution, Jones took advantage of the trust and friendship of the five girls in molesting them at various locations, including the Rosalie Woodson Dance Academy, where he was an instructor.

Jones' defense is that the prosecution failed to prove he molested the girls, and that their testimony had "serious credibility problems."

Jones, 21, is charged with four counts of first-degree sexual assault, each of which carries a maximum prison term of 20 years; and 14 counts of third-degree sexual assault, each of which carries a maximum prison term of five years.

Reach Ken Kobayashi at kkobayashi@honoluluadvertiser.com.