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Prosecutors Defer to Court on Visitor’s Request to Return to Mainland

By Tiffany DeMasters
April 20, 2021, 7:44 AM HST
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Hawai‘i County Office of the Prosecuting Attorney is deferring to the court after a Pennsylvania man, accused of manslaughter, requested to return to the US Mainland.

Benjamin Fleming pleaded not guilty in 3rd Circuit Thursday, April 15, after his arrest for allegedly strangling his vacation rental roommate. During Thursday’s hearing, Judge Robert DS Kim maintained conditions of bail that required the 37-year-old not to leave the island without first seeking approval from the court.

A jury trial has been scheduled for Aug. 3, 2021. Fleming is currently staying in South Kona.

Fleming’s lawyer, Christopher J. Eggert requested a bail hearing, which is scheduled for April 21. According to court documents filed with the court, Eggert notes Fleming is an active member of the Indiana National Guard with no prior felony, misdemeanor or petty misdemeanor appearances.

Along with Eggert’s request for Fleming to return to the Mainland, he is also seeking a reduction in bail from $250,000 to $100,000.

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The prosecutor’s office filed its response on Friday, April 16, to Eggert’s requests. According to the document, the State doesn’t oppose bail being allowed as it has been.

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“However, the State does believe a sufficient amount of bail should be required to ensure the Defendant, a non-resident with no ties to Hawai‘i appears in court as directed,” the document states.

Prosecutors note the present amount of bail, which has been posted via bond, is an appropriate amount for the crime charged.

“But if the Court is inclined to reduce bail, the State would urge the Court to set bail at such an amount that would provide real consequences (and therefore, real incentive) should the Defendant fail to appear for trial or other court hearings,” prosecutors state.

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While the prosecutors defer to the judge in the matter of Fleming’s return to the Mainland, they ask that the defendant be required to sign a waiver of extradition in advance. Eggert confirmed Fleming has reviewed the waiver and is ready to sign should the court authorize his return to the US Mainland.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to complicate travel, prosecutors request Fleming be required to appear in person for the scheduled pre-trial conference and any evidentiary hearings set by the Court, as well as two weeks before the scheduled trial date in an effort to avoid delays.

Fleming is accused of strangling to death his vacation rental roommate, Abhishik Gupta, during a fight that took place on March 29 in Kailua-Kona.

According to Hawai‘i Police Department, the altercation between Fleming and Gupta occurred in the early morning hours at a property on Walua Road.

Police reported that Fleming dialed 911 that morning and told responders that Gupta had passed out after drinking too much alcohol. However, an investigation led officers to the conclusion that Gupta died as the result of a physical fight.

An autopsy later determined that the cause of Gupta’s death was strangulation.

Fleming is facing a class A felony offense which carries a punishment of up to 20 years imprisonment without the possibility of parole.

Tiffany DeMasters
Tiffany DeMasters is a reporter for Big Island Now. Tiffany worked as the cops and courts reporter for West Hawaii Today from 2017 to 2019. She also contributed stories to Ke Ola Magazine and Honolulu Civil Beat.
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