The man dubbed the “Manoa rapist” is getting some signals that he could be let out of prison for the first time in 35 years.
The case of John Freudenberg is one Always Investigating has been following.
He’s serving life in prison with the possibility of parole for multiple rapes and assaults in the 1980s. Every year since he served his 15-year minimum sentence, he’s been denied parole.
But on Tuesday, the Hawaii Paroling Authority board showed a willingness to at least consider a plan to let him out of prison, which will be reviewed in six months.
What’s different now is that for the first time, the majority of the board appears to be leaning toward considering an in-state, direct-to-parole path for Freudenberg, saying they don’t think the Department of Public Safety is earnest about putting him into the work furlough program that the board has recommended for decades.
Thirty-five years ago this month, Freudenberg entered Halawa Correctional Facility as a young man who had committed a violent sexual crime spree. Now 57 years old, he’s on his 20th year trying to convince the parole board he no longer poses a threat.
“I know that is not who I am now. That’s the person I was back then, 35 years ago,” Freudenberg told the board at a Halawa hearing Tuesday.
His attorney, Myles Breiner, has argued the board and DPS have turned a “life with the possibility of parole” sentence into a de facto “life without parole” because DPS has yet to grant the work furlough the board has recommended as a required step before parole.
“His rights? What about the rights of the 16 women he terrorized and traumatized in Manoa during the early 1980s?” Deputy Prosecutor Lynn Costales read to the board from a letter written by a victim.
“What occurred many years ago, time has not healed all those wounds,” Costales said of the victim, “and she still has suffered greatly.”
“I recognize that I caused tremendous suffering and I deserve tremendous punishment in return,” Freudenberg said. “I’ve paid my debt as far as prison time, but I know when I go out, I’ll still pay my debt for the rest of my life.”
Freudenberg was approved in-concept for an out-of-state parole through an interstate compact, to live with a sister and a retired U.S. Marshal brother-in-law, but Texas parole authorities have twice approved then rescinded the move.
“Why Texas vs. Hawaii? Simply, they have better resources there, you know? We don’t,” said HPA board member Fituina Tua.
“If this board is open to releasing Mr. Freudenberg to Texas, similarly we should be open to releasing him here,” HPA board member Annelle Amaral said.
“What we’re asking for today is for him to be paroled and put into intensive parole supervision,” Breiner said.
For the first time, the board opened the door to weigh an in-state, direct-to-parole plan, if DPS continues to stall on a work furlough spot.
“We have recommended work furlough for 20 years, 20 years,” Amaral said, “but the Department of Public Safety has made it a point to make sure that Mr. Freudenberg does not get to work furlough. Logic would tell me perhaps we should be talking about parole for Mr. Freudenberg at this point.”
One of Freudenberg’s victims told Always Investigating: “If he goes straight to parole, it is a big responsibility to have a successful outcome. As a victim, I feel that the safety of our community is of utmost importance. The parole board would have to have complete trust in John Freudenberg.”
Freudenberg’s attorney offered up an outline of intensive parole that would include a group home, electronic monitoring, 24/7 calling, 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew, random drug tests, and weekly parole office visits.
“Whatever it takes, the most intensive program possible to demonstrate that he can be in compliance,” Breiner said. “The DPS has effectively denied him the opportunity to have a chance to demonstrate his ability to comply with the rules and regulations of furlough.”
After a recess where the board heatedly debated what to do, they agreed to come back in six months to consider a final version of the parole plan.
“Then it will sharpen the issue to see whether it’s going to be parole with as many conditions, or whether hopefully Public Safety will consider work furlough which is the obvious way they should think,” HPA board member Michael Town said. “For the life of me, I don’t know why they’re not going down that road.”
The Department of Public Safety said Freudenberg’s application is under review and they’re still working on a furlough program specific to Freudenberg, but would not tell Always Investigating when they will grant it.
“We cannot give a specific timeline for when a plan will be approved,” DPS spokesperson Toni Schwartz said. “We take the process seriously and we will make sure to give thorough evaluation to all possible options.
“People can be assured that public safety is our number one priority,” Schwartz added. “Making sure that community-based programming is identified to fit his specific needs, along with the establishment of adequate outside monitoring is essential to that mission.”
After the hearing, Freudenberg’s attorney said electronic monitoring of Freudenberg would be unique on Oahu because so far, it’s only used by the state on the neighbor islands.
“It’s expensive, but it’s doable,” Breiner said. “His family as I understand it is willing to fund electronic GPS monitoring.”
Always Investigating asked Breiner, what assurance can he give to the public and the victims that the special plan he’s been tasked to come up with will be anywhere near as secure as the DPS work furlough equivalent?
“More people run from work furlough than from parole,” Breiner said. “By the time someone’s granted parole, the vast number of parolees realize how much they have to lose.”
We’ll be at the next parole board hearing in six months and will report back with an update.