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Hawaii process set up for the psychiatric patient charged in escape

FILE – In this Nov. 17, 2017, file photo, escaped patient from the hospital, Randall points to a guard as he sits in a prisoner, a visitor to the booth at the San Joaquin County Jail before a scheduled hearing in the French Camp, Calif. The lawyer that Saito, who escaped from a Hawaii psychiatric hospital says Thursday, Dec. 13, 2018, his client wants to go for the court. Lawyer, Michael Green, says Randall Saito “wants his story.” In November 2017, Saito ran off to Hawaii State Hospital and was captured days later in Stockton, California.(AP Photo/Terry Ha, File)

HONOLULU – A man who spent decades in a Hawaiian mental hospital for the killing of a woman wants to go to trial on the escape and identity theft charges after authorities said he fled the facility and flew to California before being recorded, his lawyer said Thursday.

Randall Saito appeared via video from a Honolulu jail on Thursday and looked like the lawyer, Michael Green, entered a not guilty plea on his behalf in his arraignment.

“He wants his story out there,” Green told The Associated Press.

In November 2017, authorities said Saito ran from the Hawaii State Hospital, where he was sent in 1981, after he was acquitted of murder on grounds of insanity in the 1979 killing of Sandra Yamashiro.

After leaving the hospital, Saito a taxi that took him to the airport, where he chartered a flight to Maui. He used an alias for the control of the flight and paid $1,445 cash for it, prosecutors said. He then took a commercial flight to San Jose, California, prosecutors said.

When he was arrested in Stockton, California, three days after his escape, he had more than $ 6,000 in cash and a fake Washington state and Illinois driver’s licenses with his photos with different names, prosecutors said.

While the escape is a “foregone conclusion,” Saito wants to fight for the identity theft charge, Green said.

Trial is scheduled for March.

While in prison in California, Saito gave several interviews with reporters, including the AP. He said that he escaped to prove that he should be free. “I was just trying to take as much time as possible under my belt to prove my point that I could be in the community without supervision and not truculent or violent or stupid,” Saito said at the time.

A state attorney general’s office investigation shows that no employee directly responsible for the escape. An anonymised copy of the report was expected to be posted online Thursday afternoon, said Krishna Jayaram, spokesman of the office.

After Saito’s escape, six hospital employees were placed on off-duty status. The two have since retired, and the other four will be restored. No hospital employees will be disciplined.

No employees provided Saito with the materials, which has helped him to escape, Attorney General Russell Suzuki said.

Hawaii Health Director Bruce Anderson said Wednesday that part of the problem was that the hospital staff were pleased with Saito’s escape risk.

“That’s a shame,” Green said. “They were the contact with what happened.”

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