Fairness of mandatory prison term for child enticement questioned - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Fairness of mandatory prison term for child enticement questioned

Matthew Lewis Matthew Lewis
Theresa-Ann Pestana Theresa-Ann Pestana
Harrison Kiehm Harrison Kiehm
Albert Cook Albert Cook

By Minna Sugimoto - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Family and friends of a Hawaii Air National Guard member, convicted of electronic enticement of a child, cried as sheriffs took him away to prison Monday. Matthew Lewis is starting a 10-year prison term, which supporters say is too severe.

Supporters say the former martial arts instructor deserves a second chance because he has no prior criminal record, this was a victim-less crime, and he was found by one psychologist to not be sexually attracted to children.

But state prosecutors say his online chats with an undercover officer, who was posing as a teenager, were sexually-explicit and disturbing.

A former karate instructor was brought to tears as supporters described him as being kind, loyal and disciplined.

"He's good. He's really good with the kids, the kids that really need some mentor out there," Theresa-Ann Pestana, mother of karate students, said. "My boys, they have structure because of him."

But state prosecutors see a different Matthew Lewis. They say he went online and arranged to meet a 14-year-old girl for sex.

The defense maintains the 34-year-old didn't break the law because, while he did get into his car and drive to the meeting place, he realized he couldn't go through with it and didn't actually stop there.

"One psychologist even opined, 'It is my clinical opinion that Mr. Lewis is not a predator. He did not exhibit any characteristics normally seen in sexual offenders,'" Harrison Kiehm, defense attorney, said.

"That, in the state's mind, shows that he is likely to re-offend because if he doesn't think that he did anything wrong, then what's to stop him from doing this again," Albert Cook, deputy attorney general, said.

At trial, jurors deliberated for only an hour before convicting the Hawaii Air National Guardsman of electronic enticement. The punishment under Hawaii's law is a 10-year prison term. Probation is no longer an option.

"The Legislature said that it doesn't matter that he has a history of stable employment and that he actually served this country in the military and has actually been in situations where he has almost died for this country," Kiehm said. "That doesn't matter. The Legislature says he has to serve 10 years."

"He know he did wrong," Pestana said. "But for somebody to witness his friends dying out there and then he has to face this in court, please give him another chance."

Calling it a serious crime, the judge gave Lewis the mandatory sentence.

"It's true he doesn't have any prior convictions," Cook said. "But it's also true that through the Internet, we're able to see a side of Mr. Lewis that most people don't see."

The law establishing the mandatory 10-year prison sentence for electronic enticement went into effect in 2008.

The defense plans to appeal.

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