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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Hate crime not ruled out in Waikele assault

StoryChat: Comment on this story

By Peter Boylan and Gordon Pang
Advertiser Staff Writers

HATE-CRIME LAW

State law provides this definition:

"Hate crime means any criminal act in which the perpetrator intentionally selected the victim or in the case of a property crime, the property that was the object of a crime, because of hostility toward the actual or perceived race, religion, disability, ethnicity, national origin, gender identity or expression, or sexual orientation of any person."

The prosecutor's office said if a second-degree assault was prosecuted as a hate crime, the felony maximum penalty of five years could be increased to 10 years, but it must be proven that the perpetrator intentionally selected the victim based on the listed categories.

Source: Hawai'i Revised Statutes, Honolulu prosecutor's office

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As debate continued over the assault on an Army couple in the parking lot of a Waikele shopping center, city Prosecutor Peter Carlisle yesterday said he had not ruled out handling the case as a hate crime.

The assault remains under investigation, and the charges are up for evaluation, Carlisle said.

Carlisle met with Andrew Dussell, a 26-year-old soldier, and his wife after they were allegedly beaten in the parking lot of the shopping center Feb. 19. The pair asked that their privacy be respected, and Andrew Dussell is under orders from the Army not to speak out about the case, Carlisle said.

Both Andrew Dussell, who has served two tours of duty in Iraq, and his wife, Dawn Dussell, a 23-year-old nursing student at Hawai'i Pacific University, suffered broken noses, concussions and facial fractures.

A police affidavit filed in court said the attack occurred after the Dussells' car collided with a vehicle while trying to pull into a parking stall.

Gerald D. Paakaula, 44, and his son were arrested in connection with the assault. The father has been charged with second-degree assault; the son's case is being handled by the Family Court in confidential proceedings.

The affidavit said the son was "extremely angry that his vehicle had been struck."

"He began yelling obscenities toward Andrew Dussell, calling him a 'f------ haole' while kicking his driver side door," the document said.

Paakaula was released after posting $20,000 bail. The police affidavit did not allege that he made any racial remarks.

HATE CRIME OR NOT?

On Friday, Jim Fulton, a spokesman for the prosecutor's office, said the case didn't involve a hate crime, but Carlisle yesterday said he hadn't looked at all the evidence and couldn't comment about whether a hate crime prosecution is warranted.

Carlisle said the hate crime law is "very specific."

"Was this guy targeted because of his race? From what I'm hearing, this was despicable, vicious and violent conduct with attendant verbal hostility, but you have to analyze that.

"Was this a targeting of a victim because of race or was there another reason for the conduct?"

State Public Defender Jack Tonaki said Paakaula and the son may try to obtain private attorneys.

"We don't have enough information about the case to make any comment," Tonaki said.

Paakaula has one prior criminal conviction for beating his son, the same one arrested in the Waikele case, when the boy was 11 years old.

The conviction for abuse of a family member came in 2002 after beating the boy with a belt and his fists for misbehavior at school.

Paakaula's wife, Joreen, reported to police that the beating occurred in August 2002 and lasted for 10 to 15 minutes, according to the court file. When she tried to intervene, the elder Paakaula locked her out of a bedroom and continued striking her son, who she said was "screaming" in pain and fear.

She said the beating stopped only after she summoned Paakaula's father, who lived a few doors away from their Wai'anae home.

The boy was treated at Kaiser Medical Center for bruises and scratches to his face and body. The boy told police the incident was "all a blur" to him and that he was in "extreme pain all over."

Paakaula, a truck driver for a soft-drink company, pleaded guilty to the charge and was sentenced to 14 days in jail and two years' probation.

State Circuit Judge Steven Alm later released Paakaula early from his probation sentence after receiving favorable reports from his probation officer and a family therapist.

The therapist reported that the Paakaulas, including the boy, "were exceptionally motivated to treatment, open to feedback and suggestions and very eager to turn the family crisis into a growth opportunity.

"At no time have I observed tension or fear on (the boy's) part when relating to his father," the therapist said. "On the contrary, it was clear that they have a close and warm relationship."

Debate over the case, including messages and telephone calls to The Advertiser, has focused on whether it may have been a case of road rage rather than a hate crime.

In dozens of e-mails and phone calls since the first story appeared Saturday, many people want to help the injured couple while others say the incident reveals an undercurrent of racial tension in Hawai'i.

PROFESSORS WEIGH IN

Much of the public debate was touched off by comments from two University of Hawai'i at Manoa professors.

Jonathan Okamura, an ethnic studies professor, said he believed the alleged beating occurred or escalated as a result of racial considerations, based on the uttering of the phrase "f------ haole."

But Jonathan Osorio, chairman of the Kamakakuokalani Center for Hawaiian Studies, said the case should not be classified as a hate crime and that Hawaiians should not be painted with a broad brush as a result of the incident.

UH professors contacted yesterday said that while many residents see Hawai'i as a land of aloha, racial tension does exist.

Many wondered if the public outcry would have been greater if a Hawaiian couple had been beaten by Caucasians, and suggested that such a circumstance would more likely have resulted in prosecutors charging the attackers with a hate crime.

Carlisle said in response that race is relevant to an assault case only if it can be proven that a person selected a victim based on that person's race.

Noel Kent, a UH ethnic studies professor, said much of the concerns for the Dussells can be attributed to fears by a segment of the Caucasian population here.

"I think people feel very threatened," Kent said. "Is a lot of it going on? I think some of it is going on. There's always been a lot of resentment of haoles the wealth and power and dominance and sort of cultural ignorance of local ways and local customs by certain Mainland haoles."

Meanwhile, he said, "We're living in a time where a lot of Native Hawaiians are looking at their lands continuing to get taken away and continuing to be a marginalized group in the Islands."

While a segment of the Hawaiian community has felt under attack and responded in various ways, "there's a backlash against that in many ways."

Kent said he hopes the incident will cause all people living here to re-examine how they deal with their neighbors and ask themselves what is provoking anger among them.

Advertiser staff writer Jim Dooley contributed to this report.

Reach Peter Boylan at pboylan@honoluluadvertiser.com.