After 16 years, Navy veteran exonerated in child sex assault case
HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Tears streamed down Roynes Dural’s face as he heard the judge’s ruling in court Tuesday: He would not be tried again for charges he’s been fighting for 16 years.
The Navy veteran was convicted in 2003, but an appeals court overturned that conviction last year after new evidence surfaced, witnesses recanted, and two men admitted, under oath, that they had inappropriate relationships with the girl who made claims against Dural.
Circuit Court Judge Karen Nakasone’s ruling ends a years-long legal battle for Dural, who is still rebuilding his life and had been preparing for the possibility of a new trial.
Ahead of the judge’s ruling, city prosecutors asked for more time in the re-trial of Dural. Deputy prosecutor Susan Won blamed the news coverage of the case, saying the accuser was still deciding if she wanted to proceed and testify again.
“Your honor, the state isn’t asking for much, based on the heavy media reporting on this case. It’s obvious the victim has to consider a lot,” Won told the court.
While she blamed the coverage, she never told the court that the girl specifically mentioned the news reports were factors in her decision to move forward or not.
William Harrison, of the Hawaii Innocence Project, told the court that the girl’s inability to make a decision was based on something else.
“She’s either going to come forward or not and she doesn’t want to come forward because we have ample evidence that she lied on the witness stand in the course of trial," Harrison said.
The accuser was a teenager when the accusations surfaced. Dural had dated her mother years earlier.
Years after the conviction, the girl agreed to take a polygraph. According to the Hawaii Innocence Project, the girl’s polygraph showed she was either very confused by the details of the assault or lying.
During appeals court proceedings, two other men came forward saying they had inappropriate relationships with girl. In a notarized, handwritten letter that was used in a hearing, the girl’s stepfather said that, “I feel that a misuse of my testimony (led) to the wrongful incarceration of Mr. Dural.”
The letter Nate Slutter signed also said, “I (too) had an inappropriate relationship with (the girl) that was also sexual in nature.”
The note goes on to say, “I was also afraid I could be prosecuted for such conduct and wanted to stay clear of incriminating myself.”
Slutter was never prosecuted.
And years earlier, another man also told a Honolulu police detective that he was dating her from the time she was 14. Chad Kalawaia worked at the girl’s school as a baker.
In an audio recording, Kalawaia tells now retired Detective Sheryl Sunia, “I did have sex with her, I’m not proud of it.” Kalawaia has never been prosecuted either.
Harrison pointed that out in court Tuesday.
“The state has never addressed this issue," he said. They could have and should have proceeded against these individuals who really are the culprits in this case, and chose not to do so.”
Neither Kalawaia nor Slutter agreed to comment for a Hawaii News Now special report, “Innocence Lost,” on the Dural case.
After hearing both sides, Nakasone ruled that the case against Dural will not move forward. She dismissed it with prejudice so it can never be filed again.
“This case has had a long, tortuous 17-year history,” Nakasone said, “The defendant has been incarcerated for eight years, eight years of parole, not to mention the humiliation and the suffering and the economic and personal losses resulting from the case going through the system.”
Tears streamed down Dural’s face as he listened to Nakasone’s ruling.
“The defense has argued and the court does acknowledge and recognize, that the defendant has paid a heavy price for convictions that now have been vacated," Nakasone continued.
Dural’s family and attorneys from the Hawaii Innocence Project struggled to contain their emotions, knowing Dural’s long fight with the system is finally over.
“For once, he’s getting a win today,” said attorney Jennifer Brown.
Also in the audience were the co-directors of the innocence project, Rick Fried and Ken Lawson.
The group will now work to get Dural’s discharge from the military changed from less than honorable to honorable. He had served 10 years when the accusations surfaced.
The project will also work to file a federal civil rights lawsuit because Dural is not eligible for any compensation from the state for the eight years he served in prison.
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