An Ewa photographer accused of taking nude photos of underage girls has pleaded not guilty in court.
Gilbert Sta Ines was initially arrested last year, but only recently indicted by an Oahu grand jury on five counts of promoting child abuse.
According to court documents, Ines “produced and participated in the preparation of child pornography” and also “disseminated it.”
The indictment lists three victims, and says the alleged crimes happened between August 2014 and May 2015.
Senior deputy prosecutor Christopher Van Marter says the victims were between 15 and 17 at the time that Sta Ines photographed them and uploaded their nude images to the Internet. He says they paid Sta Ines to have their photo taken, and agreed to be photographed nude.
“Even though the victims in the Sta Ines case consented to be photographed, the law does not allow them to consent to the creation or distribution of images that qualify as ‘child pornography,'” Van Marter said.
Van Marter says a parent discovered the photos online and reported him. All three victims are now cooperating in the case.
“They are very brave, strong young women. They just want to see justice be done,” he said.
The Hawaii Department of Public Safety confirms Sta Ines turned himself in to state sheriffs at around 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 19. He was released after posting $50,000 bail.
During his arraignment and plea on Monday, Oct. 24, Sta Ines pleaded not guilty before a judge. His trial is set for December.
“Is this is considered a child pornography case?” KHON2 asked Van Marter.
“Absolutely. When you look at the actual language of statutes and indictment, charges prohibit creation and distribution of child pornography,” he said.
Van Marter adds that cases involving older victims are rare. A typical child pornography case involves victims younger than 12 years old.
KHON2 called Ines and spoke to him briefly over the phone, but the photographer responded “no comment” before hanging up.
If convicted, Sta Ines faces up to 30 years in prison and must register as a sex offender.