A former Kamehameha Schools speech teacher and debate team coach was convicted today of five counts of invasion of privacy involving three male students.
Honolulu Circuit Judge Rom Trader found Gabriel Alisna guilty at the conclusion of a nonjury trial and set sentencing for Jan. 9. Each charge carries a possible five-year prison term.
Trader also set the week of Feb. 4 for Alisna to stand trial for two counts of fourth-degree sexual assault for allegedly inappropriately touching a teen.
Trader did not revoke Alisna’s bail but set several conditions, including ordering him to surrender his passport within 10 days. His attorney, Keith Shigetomi, did not return a call to the Star-Advertiser seeking comment.
Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Lynn Costales said the verdict hopefully will send a message to other victims that justice can be served if they are patient and have “the courage to come forward, to do what they can to hold people accountable and to not be quiet — say something.”
According to evidence presented during the trial, Alisna recorded videos of students with a camera hidden in a clothes hook. In at least one of the videos, shot in 2013, a student was secretly recorded showering in the teacher’s faculty apartment. That student testified in court Wednesday but declined to comment after the verdict was announced.
“I don’t want to elaborate too much because it’s the students’ stories to tell. But it’s had a significant impact on their lives,” Costales said. “Invasion of privacy is just as damaging as any other sexual assault experience. There’s trauma, a feeling of betrayal and of being violated — of having something taken away without your permission.”
Costales said invasion of privacy isn’t a new statute, but such cases are becoming more common in this increasingly digital age.
“We live in a very digital age. Twenty years ago, we didn’t all walk around with cell phones that have the ability to record audio and video,” she said.
In this case, Honolulu police opened an investigation after Kamehameha Schools officials turned over Alisna’s camera to authorities. Before police became involved, Kamehameha Schools conducted its own investigation, which included a search of Alisna’s apartment and witness interviews.
After the school fired Alisna, he was allowed to clear out his apartment.
Police said they retrieved 14 videos from the camera’s memory card. An additional nine videos that had been deleted also were recovered.
Kamehameha Schools agreed in July to pay $5 million to the families of four students who sued over its handling of the situation. The families’ lawyer, Michael Green, said administrators had the shower videos in their possession, not knowing who was in them, yet still encouraged students to contact and meet with Alisna.
The case took five years to reach trial because Kamehameha School officials refused to turn over information from its investigation and wanted to have security officers who conducted the apartment search testify behind closed doors. Trader denied the requests, Kamehameha appealed, and the Hawaii Supreme Court upheld the judge’s ruling.
Commenting on the verdict, Kamehameha Schools spokeswoman Crystal Kua said: “We believe the court reached the right decision. Our hearts and prayers are with the students and their ohana.”
The Star-Advertiser’s Nelson Daranciang contributed to this story.