Permission to leave the state was granted to a 37-year-old soldier on active duty in the Army charged with manslaughter in connection with the death of a fellow Pittsburgh visitor.
Benjamin Fleming, of Pittsburgh, appeared in Kona Circuit Court Wednesday on a defense motion to reduce bail and return to the mainland pending trial of Abhishek Gupta, also of Pittsburgh, on March 29th.
Fleming, who has been released since he was on bail of $ 250,000, requested through his attorney, Christopher Eggert, that the bail be reduced to $ 100,000. Eggert argued that his client could only afford $ 100,000 bail because his mother put half of the bail through a surety firm, which gave her 45 days to get the rest of the money.
“Either he left bail or he didn’t,” said Judge Robert DS Kim.
Eggert said he was concerned that if the full bond was not booked, it could be drawn and Fleming would have to return.
“That’s not a concern of the court,” said Kim.
Assistant Attorney Chase Murray argued that the bond had been booked.
“That’s the only thing that matters at this point,” he said, adding that adding $ 250,000 is a reasonable amount for the fee.
Kim denied the bail reduction request and upheld Fleming’s request to leave the state.
The state did not mind Fleming leaving the state before his trial.
Kim approved the motion on the condition that Fleming sign an extradition waiver, hand in his passport, appear in person at all hearings, and not leave the country without permission from the court. When the condition not to own or possess a firearm was read, it was discussed that Fleming used a firearm in the course of his army training. Kim relented and ordered him not to have a personal firearm.
“He has to come back to his hearings. If he doesn’t show up, I’ll order a no bail warrant, ”said Kim.
Eggert stated that it was unlikely that he would be ready for the hearing by the scheduled date on August 3 and that he would likely submit a request for continuation.
After the hearing, Murray said the state did not mind Fleming leaving the state as he had planned military training and had assurances from Fleming’s commanding officer that he would return to Hawaii for all court hearings.
According to the website Poets and Quants, Fleming moved from the U.S. Army to the Tepper School of Business in 2018, where he had worked as a communications specialist. In total, he spent almost 19 years in the army, including a time as platoon leader of 24 soldiers, which he led through training and more than 300 operations in Afghanistan.
Fleming’s LinkedIn profile says he’s been doing an internship with a space professional association in St. Petersburg, Florida, since June. Carnegie Mellon introduced Fleming in November as an example of how the school is helping senior students. However, the article has been removed from the school’s website.
Fleming was arrested on March 29 after officers from the Hawaii Police Department were called to a vacation rental in the Kona Mansions condominiums because of an unconscious man who was unable to breathe after an argument with his roommates. Medics who were already on the scene found the victim, identified as 30-year-old Abhishek Gupta, also from Pittsburgh, had passed away.
A second man arrested at the scene, a 31-year-old New Jersey man, was released without charge.
An autopsy performed revealed that the cause of death was strangulation and the mode of death was murder.
During a two-day preliminary hearing on April 7th, the New Jersey man testified that the three college friends arrived on the Big Island on March 28th. Alexander Germany-Wald said Gupta was “psychotically” drunk and brought him back to her Kailua -Kona Airbnb after Gupta was asked to leave a bar. Fleming stayed behind.
Deutschland-Wald said he locked himself in a bedroom to seal himself off from Gupta, who was angry about having to return to the apartment.
At some point the two got into a fist fight, with Gupta sitting on Germany forest and beating him. Fleming returned to the apartment and “came to my aid and held Mr. Gupta back,” Germany-Wald said during the preliminary hearing.
When Gupta was lying in the hall, Deutschland-Wald said that Fleming had gone to him in the kitchen, where they had had a beer. He testified that he could hear Gupta “snoring” in the hallway. They checked Gupta after a few minutes because they could no longer hear him snoring and noticed that he was not breathing. Fleming called 911.
Manslaughter is a Class A crime with a maximum prison sentence of 20 years.