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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, March 6, 2004

Three convicted in beach-park beating

By David Waite
Advertiser Courts Writer

Edward Van Lier Ribbink doesn't know for sure if he will intervene again if he finds someone beating a dog.

"I don't know how I couldn't get involved, I don't know if I could just walk away," Van Lier Ribbink said yesterday after a Circuit Court jury found three Waimanalo men guilty of charges related to a beating Van Lier Ribbink suffered at Waimanalo Beach Park last March after he tried to stop a stranger who was beating a dog.

After deliberating for three days, the jury found Manuel Kupahu, 53, and his son Robert Kupahu, 28, guilty of first-degree assault. The jury also found Manuel Kupahu guilty of cruelty to animals and his nephew, Guy Meyers, 40, guilty of attempted first-degree assault.

Van Lier Ribbink said he had gone to the beach to watch his son and daughter participate in a canoe race. But before the race began, Van Lier Ribbink saw a man body-slam a 9-month-old pitbull puppy into the sand, punch it repeatedly, lift it off the sand by the leash around its neck and hold the dog's head under water.

Van Lier Ribbink confronted Manuel Kupahu about beating the dog.

"I told him if he didn't want the dog, I would buy it from him, I would feed it and I would take care of it," Van Lier Ribbink said. "I approached him with trepidation. I was aware of my surroundings. I just wanted to be effective in my efforts to get the dog freed."

He said Kupahu told him to mind his own business and swore at him and a scuffle broke out. It ended with Van Lier Ribbink on top of Kupahu. Later Kupahu carried the dead or dying dog home and returned to the beach with his son Robert and Meyers.

After the verdict was returned yesterday, Kupahu's lawyer, Jeffrey Hawk, repeated the assertions he made during his opening statement of the weeklong trial — that Van Lier Ribbink essentially assaulted Kupahu on the beach, wound up with his forearm on Kupahu's neck and caused him to black out.

"They (the jury) got the verdict wrong, but we had our day in court," Hawk said.

All three men will face sentences ranging from probation to 10 years behind bars when they are sentenced May 12. Hawk said he will ask for probation for Manuel Kupahu.

"He really has no prior criminal record. He has lived in the same house since 1968, he has worked for the city and county for 33 years patching potholes and he has been married to the same woman for 30 years," Hawk said.

Circuit Judge Gerald Kibe granted Hawk's request to allow Manuel Kupahu to remain free on bail until he is sentenced.

Meyers and Robert Kupahu glared at Van Lier Ribbink several times after the verdict was announced and Kupahu shouted an expletive as he was led from the courtroom. The two were unable to post bail and have been in custody since shortly after the incident on March 30, 2003.

City Deputy Prosecutor Dan Oyasato told the jury in his closing argument that the three men were trying to exert what they believed to be their "territorial rights" and were "peacocking around" as Van Lier Ribbink lay in a fetal position on the ground, battered and bleeding.

In his opening statement, Oya-

sato told jurors that after Manuel Kupahu carried the dog to his house across the street from the beach, an enraged Robert Kupahu appeared and demanded to know from a group of young women: "Where's that (expletive) haole? Somebody's going to die on this beach today."

Van Lier Ribbink, chief financial officer for the Hawaii Medical Service Association, suffered eight broken ribs and two deep lacerations to his head during the attack but said yesterday that he has fully recovered.

"I'm just so pleased with the verdict and so appreciative of the witnesses who came forward," he said.

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