A man known as the Manoa rapist is trying again for parole, denied every year since the mid-1990s.
His request was turned down again Monday, but many new factors could help set him free.
John Freudenberg has been locked for more than 30 years for raping or assaulting 16 women over a 14-month Manoa crime spree in the 1980s.
In the mid-1990s, he finished the minimum part of his life-with-the-possibility-of-parole sentence, and he’s been denied parole every year since.
“Bottom line is that we object to his release,” said Deputy Prosecutor Lynn Costales, “whether it be on work furlough or parole. He was given a life sentence and it is our position that he should serve that life sentence.”
But the parole board agrees with Freudenberg’s attorney that the inmate is ready to move on, as long as work furlough can be granted first — that’s a work-by-day, prison-by-night program administered by the Department of Public Safety, not the parole board.
“There are a number of people presently in furlough who are sex offenders, that the prosecutor’s office has opposed, and they’ve done well in furlough,” said Freudenberg’s attorney Myles Breiner.
But the Department of Public Safety won’t yet put Freudenberg into work furlough. They told KHON2 last year it was because program changes were needed first. Freudenberg’s attorney filed a federal lawsuit this summer claiming due process rights are being violated by the repeated delay.
“The fact remains that Mr. Freudenberg is a target by the prosecutor’s office,” Breiner said. “Their insistence that he not be paroled flies in the faces of what’s appropriate.”
The Department of Public Safety said in a court filing last month that “it is not a constitutional violation to deny a prisoner admission to a work furlough program or to deny a prisoner parole.”
But they also say Freudenberg hasn’t been denied. They say his application is under review while the prison system works to get more outside resources — like electronic monitoring, more housing and job programs — and to balance all that with public safety.
“His case is under active review,” Max Otani, deputy director for corrections, told KHON2. “Public safety is our number one priority and therefore, we are deferring his furlough at this time.”
The latest hearing revealed more from Freudenberg after a board member asked him why he did what he did to all those women all those years ago.
“I just had a lot of, to put it simply, a lot of problems in my normal life that I couldn’t deal with,” Freudenberg said, “and I took the coward’s way out of taking out my stress and my anger to some extent on innocent people who didn’t deserve what I did to them.”
“The fear we have is a lack of empathy, of using violence as a tool, so that’s what I was interested in hearing what your response was,” said Hawaii Paroling Authority member Annelle Amaral. “I’m listening for empathy, and that you have a sense for your victims, so thank you for sharing.”
The prosecution wasn’t buying it from the man who was a standout student by day, predator by night.
“Just because he says he has empathy doesn’t mean he has empathy,” said Honolulu Prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro. “Mr. Freudenberg is a very slick talker and that’s why he was able to do what he did with his victims.”
“He was active in the university and he was a good student. For all intents and purposes, people did not identify him as being a perpetrator,” Costales added, “and it was because there was a different side of him that would appear.”
The hearing ended as others have with the board making furlough a condition of release, but this time seeming to suggest they would at least be willing to review an alternate path to freedom, all while the federal lawsuit runs its course.
“There is nothing on your parole plan indicating where you want to parole to,” Hawaii Paroling Authority Chairman Bert Masuoka said, “so I guess the situation remains the same. It is work furlough.”
“I have a question then for the board, would you parole him? The answer is no, you have always recommended furloughs, so this colloquy with my client with the suggestion he hasn’t submitted a parole plan flies on the face of every recommendation this board has ever made,” Breiner responded. “If you are suggesting he submit a parole plan released to a halfway house, we’ll submit that.”
KHON2 will follow up to see if a new parole plan gets accepted by the board, or if Freudenberg gets out on the furlough he’s been trying for so many years.