- Associated Press - Thursday, August 11, 2016

HONOLULU (AP) - The Hawaii Supreme Court has ruled that a Honolulu prisoner serving a five-year sentence on an escape charge should be set free.

Eugene Paris, 52, was convicted of escape after missing a scheduled check-in at the prison as part of his agreement in a work furlough program in 2012, Hawaii News Now reported (https://bit.ly/2aNk4m0). The program allowed him to sleep at his parents’ house and work in the community, as long as he reported to the prison at scheduled times.

The state high court on Monday agreed with Paris’ attorney, who argued that his client’s failure to check in at the prison shouldn’t be considered escape because he had not technically been 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.’”

While the court has vacated Paris’ conviction, it is still unclear when he will be released. The Monday ruling has at least made Paris feel vindicated, Landsberg said.

“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,” Landsberg 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 the case could have implications for others who have been charged with escape after skipping out on work furlough.

But the state Attorney General’s Office called the decision a “narrow ruling,” saying it does not apply to every inmate in a similar situation.

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Information from: KGMB-TV, https://www.hawaiinewsnow.com/

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