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Former Hawaii Prisoner’s Sexual Assault Lawsuit Settles for Paltry $10,000

by Ed Lyon

Christina C. Riley was a model prisoner at the Maui Community Correctional Center in Hawaii, and thus was allowed to participate in a work-release program. Parking her car at the jail, she left for work in the mornings and returned afterward to the lock-up. MCCC guard James Siugpiyemal targeted Riley and sexually assaulted her after threatening to have her removed from the work-release program if she told anyone.

In one incident of oral rape, Riley kept the clothing that Siugpiyemal ejaculated on to use as evidence. Another time when the guard raped her, she had secreted a camera in her car and recorded the entire incident. Riley collected this evidence because she believed her accusations as a convicted felon needed corroboration in order to be credible.

When word leaked that Riley had reported the sexual abuse to the police, Siugpiyemal convinced another guard to falsely report a positive drug test for Riley, even though she had passed another test just minutes before. The supposed positive drug test results could not be found. Prior to his arrest, Siugpiyemal absconded to Yap, Micronesia. He was found several years later, extradited to Hawaii, prosecuted and sentenced to prison for raping Riley. [See: PLN, Nov. 2017, p.1; April 2017, p.63; July 2015, p.63].

After Siugpiyemal was convicted, Hawaii’s attorney general defended the state against Riley’s civil rights lawsuit filed in federal district court. The court granted Eleventh Amendment immunity to the state. In an unusual turn of events, Hawaii officials filed a cross-claim against Siugpiyemal, and obtained a $5,000 stipulated judgment against him in April 2019.

Honolulu attorney Myles S. Breiner represented Riley. When the state’s Eleventh Amendment defense succeeded, he and his client decided to accept a nominal settlement offer of $10,000 in April 2019. Under the unjust circumstances of the case, Breiner reportedly declined any fees, allowing Riley to keep the entire settlement amount. See: Riley v. Hawaii, U.S.D.C. (D. HI), Case No. l:16-cv-00360-DKW-WRP. 

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Additional source: civilbeat.org

Related legal case

Riley v. Hawaii