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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, October 8, 2009

Jail sought for man since 2006


By Dan Nakaso
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Hundreds of people gathered in the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace yesterday in remembrance of New Mexico tourist Bryanna Antone, who was found dead on the beach in Waikiki last week.

Photos by DEBORAH BOOKER | The Honolulu Advertiser

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Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

The Visitor Aloha Society of Hawai'i organized the portion of the Mass that honored Antone.

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City prosecutors repeatedly asked that probation be revoked and a prison sentence imposed for a 31-year-old man described as a "person of interest" in the death of a 25-year-old New Mexico tourist last week, court records show.

Aaron M. Susa violated the terms of his probation for two 2005 drug convictions repeatedly over the past four years, court records show. And nearly every time the opportunity presented itself at court hearings on Susa's probation violations, prosecutors asked that his probation be revoked and that he be sent to prison to serve a sentence of up to five years on each of the convictions.

In every instance, Circuit Judge Richard Pollack denied the prosecution requests. Instead, Pollack re-sentenced Susa to new, five-year probation periods, records show.

Susa was being held in state custody in the Honolulu Federal Detention Center until he was released on Oct. 1.

The following morning the nude body of Bryanna Antone a college student celebrating her 25th birthday with her first trip to Hawai'i was found by a jogger about 6 a.m. along the shoreline fronting The Royal Hawaiian hotel.

TOUGH DECISIONS

Susa remained in The Queen's Medical Center last night and is considered a "person of interest" by police in Antone's death.

Yesterday, City Prosecutor Peter Carlisle would not comment on Susa's release last week.

"Considering the fact that the investigation is ongoing and that there are no charges, I will refrain from commenting about this case at this time," Carlisle said in a statement.

State Public Defender John Tonaki, whose office represented Susa at trial on the drug charges and throughout the many probation revocation hearings, would not discuss Susa's history with the judicial system.

"I don't know that he's been charged with anything, I don't know if he will be charged in connection with this case," Tonaki said. "It would be very premature for me to comment on it."

But Tonaki said judges have to make tough decisions in the public's best interest.

"They have to strike a balance between trying to help a defendant and deciding when a defendant becomes an obvious failure (at drug rehabilitation) and a public safety risk."

Often, he said, there are no indications that a defendant has become an immediate danger to the community.

"There are thousands of criminal defendants on probation," Tonaki said. "It's a tough call. ... It won't be the first time that someone on probation has done something like this. But to start playing Monday-morning quarterback and second-guessing judges is not going to do us any good.

"This is not meant to minimize, at all, what happened to the woman and her family it was certainly a tragedy."

JAIL TIME REJECTED

Prosecutors first asked to have Susa's probation revoked in June 2006, and most recently made the same request at a hearing on June 22, court records show.

At the June hearing, Pollack rejected the prosecution request that Susa be sent to prison for five years. Instead, he set the clock in motion on a new five-year probation term and sentenced Susa to a four-month jail term.

Since Susa had been arrested June 4 on suspicion of the parole violation, the judge gave him credit for 18 days' time served.

Federal Bureau of Prison records show that Susa was released from custody on Oct. 1. At about 1:40 a.m. on Oct. 2, police said, he and Antone were seen leaving the Waikiki Ohana West Hotel, just hours before her body was found.

On Monday, responding to an anonymous tip, officers found Susa hiding in a clump of bushes near the intersection of Lunalilo and Liholiho streets. He told police he was ill and was taken to The Queen's Medical Center, where he remained yesterday undergoing treatment for an unspecified ailment.

HONORING ANTONE

Meanwhile yesterday, about 300 Hawai'i residents from various denominations gathered in prayer for Antone.

Ronald Bradbury, a former Waikiki beachboy and retired Honolulu firefighter from Honouliuli, brought a bouquet of flowers to yesterday's 30-minute Catholic Mass in Antone's honor at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace on Fort Street Mall, even though Bradbury is Lutheran and had no connection to Antone.

Bradbury does have two daughters ages 11 and 18 and Antone's death prompted him to attend yesterday's Mass.

"It's just tragic," he said. "I want her family to know that what happened isn't Hawai'i."

Antone, who was raised Catholic, dreamed of a career as a makeup artist working on film and television and film sets, her family said. She lived in the Albuquerque suburb of Rio Rancho, celebrated her birthday on Sept. 21 and then accompanied her mother for her first visit to Hawai'i as her mother attended a dentist's convention.

Antone's family returned to New Mexico yesterday and chose not to attend, said Jessica Lani Rich, president and executive director of the Visitor Aloha Society of Hawai'i, which organized Antone's portion of the regularly scheduled Mass at the cathedral.

Sefa Tuai of La'ie, who belongs to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, played acoustic guitar and sang Don Ho's "I'll Remember You" in Antone's memory at the start of the Mass, then concluded with Israel "Bruddah Iz" Kamakawiwo'ole's "Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What A Wonderful World."

"It was just so nice to see so many people here honoring her," Tuai said. "I don't want the family to go home thinking that Hawai'i is the kind of place where these awful things happen."