Labor-trafficking case against couple is dismissed

Feb. 13—Oahu Circuit Judge Shanlyn Park dismissed labor-trafficking felony charges against a Palolo couple accused of bringing a woman and her then 15-year-old daughter from Guam to Hono ­lulu in 2021, beating and forcing them to perform work, locking the girl in their apartment and taking their passports and money.

Oahu Circuit Judge Shanlyn Park dismissed labor-trafficking felony charges against a Palolo couple accused of bringing a woman and her then 15-year-old daughter from Guam to Hono ­lulu in 2021, beating and forcing them to perform work, locking the girl in their apartment and taking their passports and money.

Pomerrine and Kevin Robert had been scheduled to go on trial Jan. 29 for Class A felony labor-trafficking charges.

The minutes of a Jan. 16 hearing when the charges were dismissed were posted Friday, showing the primary reason for the dismissal was that the state could not locate and had no contact information for the mother or child since they returned to Guam.

The couple walked out of the courtroom free after Park discharged them from their obligations of supervised release since bail had been set aside.

The judge signed a written order, which was filed in court Jan. 25, dismissing the case with prejudice, meaning the couple cannot be recharged for the crimes.

The Roberts had been on supervised release after being indicted and arrested in March 2022. Judge Kevin Morikone granted Pomerrine Robert supervised release in June 2022 and set aside the $250, 000 bail, and did the same for Kevin Robert in October 2022.

When the Honolulu Prosecutor's Office in March 2022 charged Pomerrine Robert, then 29, and Kevin Robert, then 41, with two counts of first-degree labor trafficking, Honolulu Prosecutor Steve Alm said in a written statement : "Human trafficking, whether for labor or sex, is an abhorrent crime that deserves the full attention of all levels of law enforcement, federal, state and county."

In response to the dismissal, Alm told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser in a written response, "We take all human trafficking cases seriously and will continue to pursue them and will bring charges when the evidence supports charges."

According to court documents, the Roberts allegedly forced the daughter to clean their Ahe Street apartment.

On one occasion the girl left the apartment to visit a school friend who lived nearby. Pomerrine Robert allegedly dragged the girl by the hair through the apartment complex, then Kevin Robert allegedly tried to force the girl to smoke "ice, " and when she refused, he repeatedly punched her with his closed fist, causing a black eye and swelling, according to court documents.

Six days later, Pomerrine Robert allegedly got angry with the girl for not cleaning up after her daughter. Police said Kevin Robert sat on her feet and held her hands while his wife beat her on the stomach and back with a metal curtain rod. The mother reportedly screamed at her, and Pomerrine Robert allegedly threw a water bottle at her head.

After being locked several days in a bedroom, the girl reported it to a school counselor after she was released.

The Roberts are accused of forcing the mother to work at a sandwich shop and taking the money she earned.

At the Jan. 16 hearing, Kevin Robert's attorney, Timothy Rakieten, asked the judge to dismiss the case with prejudice since the complainants' having left Hawaii and being unreachable "may be a signal of the lack of desire to pursue the case further." He also noted the "defendants' good behavior and the stress of the case on them."

The state asked that the case be dismissed "without prejudice due to the nature and circumstances of the alleged offenses " and that "there may be a time in the future where the victims resurface, " the minutes say.

The judge said the state was given an extension to contact the complainants, and noted the lack of contact information, knowledge of their whereabouts and the extensive efforts to find them proved unsuccessful, and the case was dismissed with prejudice.

Park had granted Kevin Robert supervised release Nov. 8, setting aside the $250, 000 bail, even after his supervised release had been revoked Oct. 10 and a bench warrant issued. He had been on supervised release since Oct. 18, 2022, but the Oahu Intake Service Center said he violated the terms and conditions of his supervised release, and asked the judge to revoke it. Even though Robert stipulated that he did violate the terms and conditions of supervised release, Park ordered the bail again to be set aside and released him on supervised release.