A former Department of Education teaching assistant has been indicted by an Oahu grand jury in the first so-called “sexting” case in Hawaii to result in the filing of criminal charges, Prosecuting Attorney Keith M. Kaneshiro said Tuesday.

“Sexting” involves the exchange of sexually explicit text messages or images and engaging in virtual sex.

Cody M. Onizuka, 25, was charged Tuesday with promoting child abuse in the third degree and violation of a restraining order. Promoting child abuse, which includes possession of child pornography, is a Class C felony punishable by up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Violation of a restraining order is a misdemeanor with maximum penalties of one year in prison and a $2,000 fine.

The indictment alleges that in early 2010, Onizuka tried to establish an intimate and sexual relationship with a 12-year-old female student at Niu Valley Middle School. When the girl’s mother learned that Onizuka was communicating with her daughter, she asked him to stop. When Onizuka ignored her request, the mother obtained a temporary restraining order against him.

The indictment further alleges that Onizuka not only continued to communicate with the girl but that he bought a cell phone for her and had it delivered to her home by a fellow student. Onizuka then convinced the girl to take nude photographs of herself with the cell phone and to transmit the images to him via text messaging. Onizuka stored the images on a laptop computer and used them to engage in repeated episodes of “sexting” with the girl.

Eventually, the girl’s mother learned of the episodes and called police. A search warrant was issued and the images were retrieved from Onizuka’s residence.

Onizuka has since been dismissed by the DOE.

Submitted by the Honolulu Department of the Prosecuting Attorney

 

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