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The man known as the “Manoa rapist” is up for parole and could be just one step away from being back in the community.
John Freudenberg has been considered for release from his life sentences just about every year since 1996, denied each time. The only hurdle left before his hearing next month is for him to get on work furlough.
Back in the 1980s here’s how prosecutors say Freudenberg, then in his 20s, lived his life:
“He was an honor student at the University of Hawaii during the day,” Honolulu Prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro said. “And at night he was burglarizing and sexually assaulting female victims.”
Sixteen victims, often at knifepoint, over a 14-month crime spree that terrorized Manoa. Now, he wants to be on work furlough by day and behind bars at night.
He’s been denied parole before, most recently just because work furlough has never come through.
“Mr. Freudenberg’s rights are being violated,” defense attorney Myles Breiner said. “We hope that [Public Safety Director] Ted Sakai, notwithstanding the political pressure that’s being exerted upon him, orders Mr. Freudenberg into furlough immediately.”
But Public Safety has been stalling and prosecutors are fighting tooth and nail.
“He committed a crime and he must pay for the crimes he committed,” Kaneshiro said, “and continue to pay.”
Sakai, the head of Public Safety, told KHON2 in a statement: “He will need a carefully structured reentry plan that meets his needs and the need for public safety.”
As for work furlough, Sakai says: “The decision we are contemplating is not a casual decision. We understand his crimes are extremely serious.”
But the state may find itself in legal hot water for not letting him out to work.
“If that’s not going to happen,” Breiner said, “then we’re looking at suing the state of Hawaii for violation of Mr. Freudenberg’s rights to fair and equal treatment and violation of the 8th Amendment cruel and unusual punishment.”
“The defense attorney can threaten all he wants,” Kaneshiro said. “As long as he poses a threat to public safety we will fight to make sure he does not see the other side of the prison walls.”
Freudenberg was sentenced to 12 life terms with the possibility of parole, with minimum 15 years to serve.
“I have a number of clients who have committed similar offense who have been paroled much sooner than Mr. Freudenberg, who is still languishing,” Breiner said. “Seventeen years ago the HPA and the state of Hawaii decided Mr. Freudenberg was eligible to be released into the community. For 17 years he has suffered the pain and punishment of being a political target for one prosecutor after another.”
“Political target, that’s ridiculous,” Kaneshiro responds. “I don’t have anything against his client. My thing against his client is he committed a crime and he’s a danger to public safety, and that’s my job, my job is to ensure public safety.”
But is Freudenberg still a danger, or reformed enough to re-enter society?
“He has been a model prisoner, he has managed to avoid any misconducts over the last 32 years,” Breiner said.
He has also completed the state’s sex offender treatment program that the parole board puts a lot of stock in.
“The recidivism rate for new sex offenses from offenders that complete that program is 2 percent,” Hawaii Paroling Authority Administrator Tommy Johnson said. “What we try to do is maintain a very tight rein on them, and they’re aware if you violate the terms and conditions of parole, you will go back to prison. There are no ifs, ands or buts.”
The parole hearing is Sept. 16. KHON2 will be there and will also report whether he’s getting out to work.