The Maui News
WAILUKU — A chiropractor is facing charges alleging he sexually assaulted a patient, after a judge last month denied a defense request to dismiss the indictment.
Michael Pierner, 77, of Paia has pleaded not guilty to second-degree sexual assault and four counts of fourth-degree sexual assault of the woman in April and May 2018.
At a hearing Feb. 24, Pierner asked for the grand jury indictment to be dismissed, with his attorney, Richard Sing, objecting to testimony by a police detective and an expert who has worked as a therapist with victims of sexual assault and domestic violence.
Sing said the detective’s summary of his interview with Pierner “was presented basically as a confession when it clearly was the exact opposite.”
Asked how Pierner had responded to the allegations, the detective told the grand jury, “He initially denied it, and then — then he said that it was possible, but he didn’t do it intentionally. And then he asked me if he should close his practice.”
Sing said a transcript of Pierner’s interview with the detective showed Pierner “denies over and over again any wrongdoing, any criminal conduct, any intentional acts that would be for sexual gratification.”
At one point during the interview, Pierner laughs and makes comments that are “tongue-in-cheek,” Sing said.
While the defense argued that the detective’s testimony was misleading, Deputy Prosecutor Karen Droscoski said that wasn’t the case.
She said the detective used Pierner’s own words in summarizing his statement. The detective’s testimony “is not false, nor was it misleading,” Droscoski wrote in opposing the dismissal.
“The state is not required to present the defendant’s entire statement,” she said at the Feb. 24 hearing. “The defendant’s laughing in no way confirms his statement was tongue-in-cheek.”
The defense also objected to the use of Dani Riggs, clinical director for Child and Family Service on Maui, as an expert witness. Sing said Riggs’ testimony was “improperly bolstering the credibility of the complainant.”
Droscoski said Riggs’ testimony about the dynamics of victim behavior helped educate grand jurors about a subject that the average person is unfamiliar with.
“Perpetrators use this lack of understanding to their advantage and get away with their crimes,” she said.
The charges against Pierner allege he sexually touched the patient after asking her to take off her clothes during chiropractic adjustments April 9 and 27, 2018. On a third visit on May 28, 2018, Pierner reached under the woman’s underwear to touch her, according to her testimony to the grand jury.
She said she filed a complaint with the state Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs after the third visit.
Second Circuit Judge Rhonda Loo denied the defense request to dismiss the indictment.
She said the court agreed with the state that the detective’s testimony wasn’t intentionally misleading.
Loo also said the prosecution “is not required to present any and all evidence to exculpate the defendant.”
“The grand jury is not an adversary hearing in which guilt or innocence is adjudicated,” Loo said.
Pierner is free after posting $100,000 bail.
A March 22 pretrial conference is set in the case.
He was indicted in the case for a second time in December 2019, after a previous indictment was dismissed without prejudice in June 2019.