HONOLULU (AP) — A man mistakenly released from a Hawaii jail while awaiting trial for murder is back in custody.

Hawaii County police spokesman Alan Richmond says Smith called police from a pay phone Thursday night and told them where he was in the Kona area. Police then picked him up and took him to a cellblock where he remained Friday.

The department initially said he would face a new charge of escape, but later said that was an error.

The department announced Thursday that he had been mistakenly released from a jail on the Big Island on Tuesday.

Smith was charged with murder in connection with the June shooting death of 42-year-old Thomas Ballesteros Jr.

Smith is scheduled to go to trial in November.

Smith was being held on $1.15 million bail but was mistakenly released from a jail on the Big Island on Tuesday. The department announced his mistaken release Thursday. A $2 million warrant was issued for his arrest.

Brian Lee Smith, who was being held on $1.5 million bail on murder charges, was mistakenly released. Hawaii Dept. of Public Safety

The department is investigating circumstances surrounding the mistake.

Smith was charged with murder in the June shooting death of Ballestros in south Kona. Police said at the time they believed Smith and Ballesteros were acquaintances.

Smith pleaded not guilty at an arraignment July 20. Trial was scheduled for November.

The attorney for Smith said Thursday he had been in touch with his client.

Jason Kwiat says there was a mix-up at Hawaii Community Correctional Center in Hilo “for whatever reason.” Kwiat says he was trying to figure out whether Tuesday’s release was valid when Smith was in contact with him.

He says prosecutors found out the release was a mistake Thursday morning and the court set a hearing for 1:15 p.m. in hopes Kwiat could get his client there.

But Kwiat says he wasn’t able to reach his client in time for the hearing. He says Smith didn’t have prior notice of the hearing.

This story was written by AP reporter Jennifer Sinco Kelleher

Thoughts on this or any other story? Write a Letter to the Editor. Send to news@civilbeat.org and put Letter in the subject line. 200 words max. You need to use your name and city and include a contact phone for verification purposes. And you can still comment on stories on our Facebook page.

Help power our public service journalism

As a local newsroom, Civil Beat has a unique public service role in times of crisis.

That’s why we’re committed to a paywall-free website and subscription-free content, so we can get vital information out to everyone, from all communities.

We are deploying a significant amount of our resources to covering the Maui fires, and your support ensures that we can pivot when these types of emergencies arise.

Make a gift to Civil Beat today and help power our nonprofit newsroom.

About the Author