Court: Failing to show up for work furlough check-in isn't 'escape'

Court: Failing to show up for work furlough check-in isn't 'escape'
Eugene Paris (mug shot)
Eugene Paris (mug shot)

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Hawaii Supreme Court ruled this week that a Honolulu prisoner convicted of escape should be set free.

Eugene Paris, 52, was on "extended furlough" in 2012, meaning he could sleep at his parents' house and work in the community, but would have to check-in to the prison at regular times.

After missing a scheduled check-in, he was convicted of second-degree escape and sentenced to five years in prison.

The state Supreme Court agreed with Paris' attorney that his failure to check-in shouldn't be considered escape because Paris was not technically in prison custody.

"The state was charging Mr. Paris as having escaped prison as if he took a motorcycle and went over the wall or drilled a hole in the sewer pipes and climbed through miles of sewage to escape,"  attorney Marcus Landsberg said.

"What happened in this case is he called and said, 'Today, I'm not gonna be able to come back.'"

On Monday, the Hawaii Supreme Court acquitted Paris, who's already served several years of the escape sentence.

Landsberg said his client feels vindicated.

"First the prosecutor told me I was wrong, the judge told me I was wrong before trial, the judge told me I was wrong during trial, a jury told me I was wrong, and then the Intermediate Court of Appeals also told me I was wrong," he said. "So you can only hope by the time you get to Supreme Court, that someone somewhere will maybe see things our way."

Landsberg said this case definitely affects many others who have also been charged with escape after skipping out on work furlough.

But the state Attorney General Office called the decision a "narrow ruling," saying this does not apply to every inmate who failed to return from work furlough. They also said it is too early to say how many cases could be affected by the decision.

Despite the ruling, Landsberg said Paris has no immediate release date scheduled. He said it's unclear what will happen next.

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