Saulibio Cleared of Sex Assault

By Tom Finnegan
Honolulu Star-Bulletin [Hawaii]
January 6, 2007

Lihue Eugene Saulibio walked out of court crying yesterday, but they were tears of joy.

Saulibio, 45, a father of three, was on trial for four counts of first-degree sexual assault of a 14-year-old girl.

But, while Saulibio admitted having a relationship with the girl in 1996, the Aiea man, himself a victim of sexual abuse at the hands of a Catholic priest when he was 15, said he did not have sex with her.

The jurors, who refused to talk to reporters afterward, apparently agreed.

"I'm just really thankful that God kept his promise," Saulibio said outside the courtroom. "Through the whole process, it taught me how to forgive and that God is real."

County Deputy Prosecutor Jennifer Winn said the outcome would have been greatly different had the relationship occurred in 2006 rather than 1996. In 2001 the age of consent for minors changed to 16 from 14.

"There is a reason why we have statutory (rape) laws," Winn said. "We can't expect children to act as adults would."

Still, she thanked the jury for their work over the three-day trial, and the two days they spent deliberating the case.

"There were obviously complicated legal issues in the case," Winn added.

Saulibio was charged with plying the girl with alcohol and marijuana and forcibly having sex with her. The now 24-year-old woman was a close friend of Saulibio's nieces and spent a month with the family on Kauai.

But lead defense attorney Victor Bakke argued that while the relationship was morally wrong, it was not illegal.

"This case should not have been brought," Bakke said. "There was no evidence of sexual assault."

The biggest piece of evidence produced by prosecutors was a recorded phone conversation between the victim and Saulibio, where Saulibio admitted the relationship, apologized and said, "This creep of a priest did to me, and I did it to someone else."

Saulibio, however, testified during the trial that during the phone conversation he was apologizing for the relationship, which was consensual but improper.

Yesterday, he said of the accuser, "I forgive her," and said he was looking forward to going home, hugging his wife and kids, and returning to the Anuenue church, which gave him so much support.



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