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Judge sentences man to 60 years for raping Maui store clerk


WAILUKU » A judge sentenced a man to 60 years behind bars for raping a clerk at a Maui Mall shop two years ago.

Charles Cowans will have to spend at least 40 years behind bars before being eligible for parole, The Maui News reported.

"You are a beast and you were in beast mode that day," 2nd Circuit Judge Rhonda Loo told Cowans during the sentencing on Friday. "Not only are you a sexual predator, but you are an animal."

Deputy Prosecutor Kim Whitworth said the woman was at work in May 2013 when the 6-foot-2, 170-pound Cowans followed her into the store, asking about merchandise and dressing rooms.

He went back after other customers had left and the woman was alone.

"He said, ‘We’re going to have sex,’" Whitworth said. "What ensued was a brutal, terrorizing sexual assault.

"He pulled her like a rag doll into that dressing room as she fought for her life," Whitworth said.

The attack stopped when the defendant saw a startled male customer, Whitworth said.

The woman was bleeding from her mouth and also suffered injuries to her face and body, the prosecutor said.

Cowans pleaded no contest to two counts of first-degree sexual assault and kidnapping. He wasn’t taking his mental health medication at the time of the attack, said Deputy Public Defender William "Pili" McGrath.

"I wasn’t really mentally stable at the time. I was pretty messed up in my mind," Cowans said in court. "I do feel sorry for all the pain and suffering I caused the victim and her family."

Cowans pleaded no contest because he didn’t want to put the victim through the ordeal of a trial, McGrath said.

The victim said she’s haunted by the crime, which has caused stress, anger and worry for her children.

"The psychological outcome is still there," the woman said in court. "Not a week passes by that there isn’t a moment that I’m not haunted or reminded by the thought of the crime. I wonder will it ever go away."

The Associated Press doesn’t identify people who say they were victims of sexual assault.

Court-appointed psychiatrists or psychologists who examined Cowans agreed it was unlikely that someone so psychotic would be able to follow through with the task of registering as a sex offender, Whitworth said. The examiners found Cowans mentally fit for court proceedings.

In California, Whitworth said, Cowans spent more than a decade in prison for 1999 convictions for rape by force and second-degree robbery of a woman working alone in a store.

Cowans went into the store and engaged with the woman before returning later, in an attack "shockingly similar" to what he did at the Maui Mall, Whitworth said.

"As a rapist, he is capable of unfathomable violence and he will commit more crime if he is ever released," she said.

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