Tuesday, November 24, 2015         

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Kalaupapa patient sentenced to 5 years on drug charge

By Nelson Daranciang


A federal judge sentenced Hansen’s disease patient Norbert Palea to five years in prison this afternoon for transporting methamphetamine to Kalaupapa on two occasions after receiving medical treatment for his condition on Oahu.

“I’m fine with it,” Palea, 69, said of his prison sentence.

The five years is the mandatory minimum jail time Palea faced based on the amount of drugs involved.

U.S. District Judge J. Michael Seabright also sentenced Palea to four years of supervised release after he completes his prison term, subjecting him to unannounced searches of his home.

Federal prosecutor Thomas Muehleck said he did not recommend a longer prison sentence because of Palea’s age and health. He also said he did not ask for a sentence shorter than the mandatory minimum because Palea has a previous state drug conviction involving methamphetamine.

Palea pleaded guilty in 1993 to possession of methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia and to commercial promotion of marijuana.

Muehleck said while Palea was on parole for the state conviction he was caught in possession “ziplock baggies” while in the hospital. He said Palea also initially lied when authorities caught him transporting methamphetamine in the federal case.

They found the drug in Palea’s check-in luggage at Honolulu Airport in November 2009. They later found methamphetamine in a box Palea sent by air cargo to Molokai from Oahu in February 2010.

Palea told authorities the drugs were meant for workers at Kalaupapa, not for any patient.

Seabright is allowing Palea to turn himself in to begin serving his sentence in June so he can complete a series of surgeries he is undergoing to his feet.

Palea is Kalaupapa’s youngest Hansen’s disease resident.

The state put him the Hansen’s disease colony when he was 6 years old.

He said suffered physical and sexual abuse at the hands of adult residents. He said he suffered health ailments at the hands of authorities who used him as a guinea pig for experimental treatments.

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