By JOHN BURNETT
Tribune-Herald staff writer
A 35-year-old Hilo man who used his iPhone last March to take videos of a woman and a girl using public restrooms without their permission has been sentenced to 10 years in prison.
On Thursday, Hilo Circuit Judge Glenn Hara handed down the harshest sentence possible to Faavae E. Tuinei, two consecutive five-year sentences for first-degree invasion of privacy. Tuinei, who’s been in custody since his arrest unable to make bail, will be given credit for time served.
A 24-year-old woman told police that she was using the restroom at Afook-Chinen Civic Auditorium on the evening of March 31, and saw a hand with a cell phone thrust under a stall partition.
Tuinei was confronted by two county workers after the incident, but mumbled a denial and walked away.
Then, 50 minutes later, Tuinei was confronted by a 25-year-old man after the 13-year-old niece of his girlfriend told him that Tuinei was trying to record her using the restroom at Puainako Town Center. Tuinei was chased down by the uncle, Laimana Mauga, and two other passersby, and sported shiners and a bruised face when arrested.
Tuinei pleaded guilty to the charges on Nov. 15. His attorney, Deputy Public Defender Jeff Ng, asked the court to sentence Tuinei to concurrent five-year prison terms for the two offenses.
“We feel that’s the appropriate sentence,” he said. “Mr. Tuinei admits (and) takes responsibility for his actions on that night.”
Deputy Prosecutor Mike Kagami requested that the judge impose consecutive terms, and referred to his written pre-sentencing statement. The report stated, in part, that Tuinei’s conduct “clearly exceeded the bounds of human dignity and violated the personal privacy of two females in what was supposed to be a very private place.”
A video taken from the phone by police shows a female using the bathroom, the document stated.
In the report, Kagami also noted that Tuinei has two felony burglary convictions in American Samoa, plus convictions for resisting arrest and trespassing.
Tuinei, who appeared with a Samoan language interpreter, addressed the court in English, and apologized to the judge and to his victims for his actions, which he admitted “were reprehensible.”
“I offer no excuse for what I have done,” he said. “… My actions do not reflect who I truly am as a person.”
Hara didn’t buy that, described Tuinei’s conduct as a “gross violation of privacy” and imposed the consecutive terms “for the welfare of society.”
“It seems that you have a long history of violation of privacy. I look at the burglary convictions as not only property crimes, but violations of the privacy of the individuals’ homes that you burglarized,” the judge said. “… Also Mr. Tuinei, I would think that after you had been confronted after the first time, it would deter you from committing the second invasion of privacy in just about the same manner that you did the first one, within an hour of each other. I take those as aggravating circumstances, that you would do that after having been confronted with the first one.”
Afterward, Kagami called the 10-year sentence “entirely appropriate,” while Ng declined to comment.
Email John Burnett at email@example.com.