On December 17, 2004, the 61-year-old then Hawaii House minority leader took a late night flight from Honolulu to Los Angeles. It was a flight that would forever change his life – and that of his victim’s.
The woman who sat next to him first intrigued him because she was speaking to her parents across the isle in Cantonese. Later in the flight, while she was buried under a blanket and watching a movie, her arm connected with his on the armrest. When he applied pressure to her arm, she removed hers. But a short time later, she put her arm back on the armrest, and this time when he pressed her arm, she did not pull away. He also touched her leg with his and she did not move.
Though he never spoke a word to her or made eye contact, Fox took this to mean that she could be receptive to his advances. He reached under her blanket to find her hand but it is dark. He ran his hand up one thigh and down the other, then he rubbed her crotch from the outside of her jeans, but quickly stopped because he was “embarrassed” and thought he may have made a mistake. She never moved or responded to his advances.
Just a half hour later when the movie ended, he reached over to touch her arm and apologize. This time she bolted from her seat and yelled loudly “What the fuck are you doing? And why are you touching me?”
The woman left her seat to report him to the flight attendant, and Fox was informed that the LA airport police may escort him off the plane. Inside an airport holding area, he overheard the FBI and airport police agents saying the woman accused him of “unfastening her seatbelt, unfastening her jeans, placing part of his hand inside her jeans, and rubbing her crotch .. until she woke up and cried out.” Later she said she saw that he had unzipped her pants and that his hands were in her crotch area.
Neither of these incidents happened, he told the FBI.
Released after a couple of hours, he immediately called Gov. Linda Lingle to tell her he’d been arrested because someone had told “a terrible story” about him “that was not true.” Lingle told Fox to keep Bob Awana, her managing director, informed.
Fox left the FBI detention without an answer as to what would happen next, but he got the bad news four months later when he was charged with “Abusive sexual contact, Misdemeanor, Class 2.”
His lawyers maintained this case is about non-verbal communications gone array, and told him that because the victim changed her story, he had a good case.
“My lawyers believed the two conflicting stories victim told about when she found her fly opened would help convince judge that victim was not telling the truth. People tell conflicting versions when they are making stuff up. In the trial, however, prosecution papered over the two different stories by having victim testify that in her seat, she found her fly ‘partially’ open, and that when she went to the back of the plane, she realized it was ‘fully’ open, thereby squaring the two different stories she told two different FBI agents about when she found her fly open.”
The victim maintained in court that she and her mother had taken Dramamine to keep from getting sick on the flight and that she was asleep when Fox touched her.
After a three hour, non jury trial on October 2005, the judge found Fox guilty of abusive sexual contact, a misdemeanor. He could have spent up to a year in prison, but he was order to spend 90 days in home detention. He also had to undergo psychological treatment, spend three years on probation and register in his home state as a sex offender.
“I committed the crime, and I much regret it. The important thing is not trying to excuse the crime, but to provide some explanation about what actually happened and what was missed in the coverage of the trial,” he said in an exclusive interview from a Starbucks restaurant near his home in Honolulu.
Back in Hawaii one week after his conviction, he had an appointment with the governor to tell her his bad news. Just as he was stepping out of his office, KITV reporter Daryl Huff walked into his office. The story became big news in Hawaii. “Someone tipped him off after the trial,” Fox says.
The governor strongly advised Fox to resign as minority leader and from House of Representatives. He thought about it for an hour before he agreed.
The media coverage that ensued afterward was painful to absorb, he says. At first, mainly because of his denials about the victim’s version of the story, some of his friends and supporters called him to offer support and say they believed him. But later, he says, as the media coverage intensified and continued to push her version of the story, support fell away.
“They (my friends) felt I lied to them,” he says in explanation.
Did he lie? “You tell me. I didn’t tell them the whole story, I just told them that I had not done what she said, which is true, but I did not tell them the rest of the story.”
He was in such a state of confusion, he says, that when it came time for sentencing, he missed his court date. He thought his sentencing was the following day. When his lawyer called to ask where he was, he rushed to the court house.
Now six years later, Fox had done his time. He held on to his story in part because he was concerned that the victim might sue him.
“The fact that victim didn’t sue me, according to my lawyer, suggests she was
not telling the truth. She did not want two conflicting stories presented to a jury in a civil trial, where mine would have been backed by a lie detector test, and presented with a challenge for her to take a test as well. Had she told the truth, she would have been more likely to sue.
“As I indicated, I don’t blame the victim for creating a story that made it
easier to explain to her parents what had happened. She proved unable to
tell them the truth that she did nothing, when she could have pushed me away
or confronted me at the time.”
Fox says he is sorry for what he has done and maintains he is a different person now than he was 6 years ago.
“Do I think of myself as an ongoing threat, of course not,” he said. “When a public figure is accused of a crime, and it leads television broadcast every night, and front page coverage in the newspapers, that person is probably not likely to commit another crime. I could barely stand to read the press about my case.”
He says that during the trial, he assumed that there was a reporter in the room, and thought the true version of the story would come out, but no LA media cared about his case, and no press from Hawaii attended. He says he took three lie detector tests and passed all three – and now he wants his side told.
Ironically he pushed for a sex offender registry while in office, and now he is on that registry. It will be at least 10 years before he can even attempt to remove his name, he says.
Part two: Galen Fox: His Recovery and Ongoing Effort at Redemption