Kauai man sentenced for sexually assaulting minor

LIHUE, KAUAI (HawaiiNewsNow) - Joseph Costa Rita, Sr., 73 of Kalaheo, was sentenced Wednesday to a total of 10 years of imprisonment in Fifth Circuit Court by the Honorable Kathleen N.A. Watanabe.

Rita was convicted of Sexual Assault in the Third Degree for assaulting a minor under the age of 14 and for Failing to Comply with Covered Offender requirements, both class C felonies. Rita was sentenced to an open five-year term for each felony, and the terms were imposed to run consecutively.

Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Lisa Arin told Watanabe in open court that Rita had betrayed the trust of the 13-year-old victim and her family by taking advantage of their kindness when they had provided him a place to live and invited him to be a part of their family.

Arin urged the Court to impose the consecutive sentences, emphasizing that it had taken Rita less than a year to commit this sexual offense and to fall out of compliance with his registration requirements after serving a 15-year term of imprisonment for his prior sexual assault and incest convictions.

Rita's attorney, Stephanie Sato, argued that the two five-year prison terms run concurrent to each other, asking the Court to consider that her client, at 73 years old, has health issues, was legally eligible for probation, and that his prior criminal history was remote in time.

Ultimately Judge Watanabe agreed with the State's position for consecutive sentencing, finding no mitigating factors in favor of Rita, and finding that the safety of the community and deterrence to future criminal conduct were the overriding factors in the case.

Prosecuting Attorney Justin F. Kollar stated, "Those who prey on the most vulnerable and trusting in their lives cannot and will not be permitted to remain in settings where they can continue to hurt others. These crimes destroy families and inflict deep and lasting trauma on their victims."

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