- Associated Press - Sunday, July 16, 2017

WAILUKU, Hawaii (AP) - A former Hawaii prison guard was found guilty of sexually assaulting an inmate three years ago.

A jury found James Siugpiyemal, 44, guilty of second-degree sexual assault and two counts of third-degree sexual assault on Friday. He was acquitted of one second-degree sexual assault charge.

Siugpiyemal was a guard at Maui Community Correctional Center from 2013 to October 2014, when he resigned, the Maui News reports (https://bit.ly/2tggvj6).

A 36-year-old inmate who had two sexual encounters with the former guard said he had threatened to have her work furlough privileges taken away after he saw a picture of her in a bikini on Facebook. The inmate recorded one of the encounters, and footage was played during the trial.

The inmate made the video because she didn’t think anyone would believe her, she said.

Under the law, an inmate is not capable of consenting to sexual relations with a guard, Deputy Prosecutor Kristin Coccaro told the jurors.

“He, as an officer, abused his authority,” said Deputy Prosecutor Iwalani Gasmen said during closing arguments to the jury Friday. “He used his leverage, basically, to solicit sex.”

Siugpiyemal’s lawyer, Ben Lowenthal, argued that there was no crime because his client had been placed on unpaid leave when the inmate made the report.

The jury determined that Siugpiyemal was still an employee of a state correctional facility and that the inmate was serving her sentence when the sexual acts took place.

Siugpiyemal’s sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 3.

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Information from: The Maui News, https://www.mauinews.com

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