Chad Duran

BY JIM DOOLEY – HOPE probationer Chad Duran received multiple chances to straighten out his life before he allegedly shot Christopher Medeiros in the head last week, court records show.

Chad Duran

Duran repeatedly violated probation by using methamphetamine after his 2010 conviction on drug charges, according to court files. After he again tested dirty for “ice” last month,  Circuit Judge Steven Alm, creator of the highly-praised HOPE program, allowed Duran to remain in HOPE, and in the community, while serving weekends in jail.

Duran, 23, is now in custody, accused of fatally shooting Medeiros last Wednesday.

HOPE is based on “swift and sure” arrest and punishment for probation violations.

Court records show that until last month, Alm imposed steadily harsher punishments each time Duran relapsed into drug use:

  • Duran was briefly jailed twice after he admitted using methamphetamine last year.
  • After again testing positive for “ice” in July 2011, Duran was sentenced by Alm to 120 days in jail.
  • After his release, Duran again tested dirty and was sentenced to 180 days in jail by Alm in February of this year.
  • Last month, following new “ice” use, Duran’s probation supervisor recommended cancellation of his original probation agreement with the court. Alm ordered Duran to serve 15 days in jail on consecutive weekends.

Prosecuting Attorney Keith Kaneshiro, who has criticized aspects of the HOPE program previously, declined to comment specifically on Duran’s case.

Keith Kaneshiro

His office asked Alm last month to sentence Duran to 18 consecutive days in jail and to refer him to a drug treatment program on the Big Island, according to Kaneshiro spokesman Dave Koga.

Duran’s lawyer, Don Wilkerson, declined to discuss last month’s hearing or the murder charge.

Wilkerson praised Alm and the HOPE program.

“He’s doing a great job,” Wilkerson said of Alm.

When a HOPE probationer is charged with a serious new crime, Wilkerson said, “It’s too bad because it makes the program look bad. It’s a good program.”

Alm is out of state and his office did not respond to questions about Duran’s HOPE case.

Duran entered a deferred acceptance of guilty plea in February 2011 to charges of third-degree promotion of a dangerous drug and possession of drug paraphernalia.

DAG pleas are granted when a defendant is believed to unlikely to re-offend. Defendants are placed under court supervision and the charges are erased if the offenders satisfactorily complete supervision.

Duran was sentenced to five years of supervision by Circuit Judge Randal Lee and was later transferred to Alm’s HOPE program.

Duran was charged with murder Friday night, accused of fatally shooting Medeiros, 26, an acquaintance with a lengthy record of criminal convictions.

Medeiros was awaiting trial in separate cases of assault and criminal property damage.

He had previously served a five-year jail sentence, imposed by Alm in January 2007, for offenses including assault, robbery, and theft.

Until last week, Duran had no record of violence.

The HOPE program has been lauded here and around the country for its striking successes in reducing recidivism among probationers.

Tevita Aholelei

But Duran is not the first HOPE probationer to be accused of new, and sometimes very violent, offenses.

  • In July, former HOPE probationer Tevita Aholelei began serving a 20-year a prison sentence for a manslaughter conviction. Alm sentenced Aholelei to brief jail stays in 2010 and last year for HOPE violations. In December, he was charged with manslaughter after he fatally assaulted a man outside a Kalihi bar.
  • Another HOPE probationer, Aaron Susa, murdered tourist Bryanna Antone on the beach in Waikiki in 2009 and in February of this year was sentenced to life in prison. The murder occurred less than a day after Susa completed a HOPE-mandated stay in jail.
  • Two men with outstanding HOPE arrest warrants, RJ Ham and Kelii Acasia, committed homicides while at large in the community. Ham is now serving a life sentence in prison for murder and Acasia is serving 30 years for manslaughter.

Alm has vigorously defended HOPE in the wake of previous news stories about what he called “a few high profile cases” of HOPE failures.

Aaron Susa

He called the stories “sensationalistic type of journalism (that) does a disservice to our citizens.” http://www.hawaiireporter.com/hope-probation-works-why-choosing-research-and-facts-over-sensationalism-and-anecdotes-make-for-better-criminal-justice-policy/123

Last week, Alm swiftly wrote a rebuttal to criticisms of HOPE expressed by Kaneshiro in a debate with political opponent Kevin Takata. http://www.hawaiireporter.com/setting-the-record-straight-on-hope-probation/123

Duran, the HOPE probationer now facing a second-degree murder charge, made his initial appearance in District Court yesterday morning and is being held in lieu of $750,000 bail pending indictment or preliminary hearing.

According to police reports, Duran was arrested after he “spontaneously uttered” a confession to the crime in front of two HPD officers.

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Jim Dooley joined the Hawaii Reporter staff as an investigative reporter in October 2010. Before that, he has worked as a print and television reporter in Hawaii since 1973, beginning as a wire service reporter with United Press International. He joined Honolulu Advertiser in 1974, working as general assignment and City Hall reporter until 1978. In 1978, he moved to full-time investigative reporting in for The Advertiser; he joined KITV news in 1996 as investigative reporter. Jim returned to Advertiser 2001, working as investigative reporter and court reporter until 2010. Reach him at Jim@hawaiireporter.com