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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, February 13, 2004

Pali suspect faces new charges

By David Waite
Advertiser Courts Writer

One of the three men accused of shooting two men to death at the Pali Municipal Golf Course last month and critically wounding a third likely will be charged next week with the armed robbery of two gambling houses on O'ahu, a police homicide investigator said in open court yesterday.



Kathleen Osmond, the lead police investigator in the Pali shooting case said police were working on the gambling house holdups before the Jan. 7 golf course slayings and plan to charge Rodney Joseph next week with two armed robberies.

Joseph, 35, was indicted Jan. 13 along with Ethan "Malu" Motta, 34, and Kevin Gonsalves, 33, on charges of first-degree murder, second-degree murder, attempted second-degree murder and firearms charges in connection with the shooting deaths of Lepo Utu Taliese, 44, and Romilius Corpuz, 40.

A third man, Tinoimalu Sao, 42, was shot in the head and has been reported by police to be in critical condition at the Queen's Medical Center since the shooting.

Police have said a power struggle between two factions that provide security for O'ahu's illegal casinos led to the Jan. 7 shootings.

At a bail hearing in Circuit Court yesterday, Osmond said Joseph turned himself in after the shooting and told investigators that he had gone to the golf course to arbitrate a dispute between two groups that provide security for illegal gambling houses on O'ahu.

Osmond confirmed that in the statement Joseph gave police, he said several large men came at him in the golf course parking lot and that he feared he was going to be beaten or robbed.

"He admitted to firing a gun and said he thought he had been shot at," Osmond said. "He simply began shooting back — he heard a shot and began shooting back," Osmond said.

She said investigators believe that three handguns were used in the shooting, one .22-caliber and two .380-caliber, all of them semi-automatic, based on shell casings recovered from the golf course.

Osmond said Joseph told police he collected the guns, melted them down and threw what was left of them into the Kapalama Canal. She said authorities searched the canal but did not recover what was left of the guns.

Osmond did not elaborate on what were described as "forthcoming charges" that she said she expects to be lodged against Joseph for allegedly robbing the two illegal gambling operations.

Lawyers for Joseph and Gonsalves yesterday sought to have the $1 million cash-only bail reduced. Motta's lawyer asked that Motta's $1 million cash bail be dropped in favor of him being released to live with his mother on the Big Island while awaiting trial.

But city Deputy Prosecutor Christopher Van Marter told Circuit Judge Michael Town that the three men pose a flight risk and a danger to the community and should be held without bail.

Town ordered that Gonsalves and Joseph be held without bail and left the bail amount for Motta at $1 million, but without the cash-only requirement.

Supporters of the three defendants and the victims filled the courtroom and many would-be spectators were turned away. The gallery also contained several plain-clothes sheriff's deputies, some of whom patrolled in and around the court building before and after the hearing.

Town urged those in the gallery to "let the process work its will" and not to do anything foolish on the way home. There were no confrontations between the two groups in the courtroom.

Reach David Waite at dwaite@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8030.