5 men indicted in Kona 'hate crime'
By Kevin Dayton
Advertiser Big Island Bureau
By Kevin Dayton
HILO, Hawai'i — Five South Kona men accused of attacking two groups of mostly Caucasian campers at Ho'okena Beach last year in an alleged racial "hate crime" have each been indicted on assault and terroristic threatening charges.
The Kona grand jury indictments filed on May 14 allege the men selected their victims "because of hostility toward the actual or perceived race of the person."
The state hate crimes law, passed in 2001, has rarely been employed by prosecutors. The Kona case is only the second time that law has been used on the Big Island. A spokesman for the Honolulu prosecutor, Jim Fulton, could not recall the law ever being used on O'ahu.
The state hate crimes law allows sentences for some crimes to be doubled.
Police said the first group of Ho'okena Beach campers reported they were attacked about 7:30 p.m. on Jan. 27, 2007, and some in that group went to Kona Community Hospital for treatment of minor injuries.
While police were taking statements from them at the hospital, a second group called to report they had also been attacked at the beach, and requested an ambulance.
Kona Police Lt. Glenn Uehana said the man most seriously injured in the assault needed stitches to close a scalp wound.
"Racial epithets were used in addition to the threats, and those threats included threats of death," Uehana said.
The case caused a stir in Kona in 2007. The campers said in published reports that the attacks were unprovoked, that there were children and at least one pregnant woman at the campsites that were attacked, and that the attackers allegedly ordered the campers to leave the beach and the island.
Named in the indictments are Kona residents Drosstain Edward Pua, Wyatt Kimo Alani Jr., Isaac K. Alani, Richard Aliiloa Kaleohano Jr., and Thomas K. Kaupu, who each face three felony charges and nine misdemeanor charges.
The indictments charge each of the five men with felony second-degree assault and misdemeanor third-degree assault in an alleged attack on Bret Williamson. Each of the five is also charged with eight counts of misdemeanor third-degree assault in alleged attacks on John Jauregui, Shawn Paine, Vincent Bove, Daniel Paige, William Godwin, Caitlin Pomerantz, Travis Flynn and Lucas Pomerantz.
The indictment also charges the five with a felony first-degree terroristic threatening for alleged threats against two groups of people who are identified in the indictment only by their initials. The first group has 11 members, and the second group has eight members, according to the indictment.
Deputy Prosecutor Dale Yamada Ross said it was her decision to use only the initials of some of the victims in the indictments instead of their full names, a decision she made "to protect their privacy." If the case goes to trial, Ross said, those names will be made public.
The most serious charges are the second-degree assault counts and the two first-degree terroristic threatening charges that each man faces, and the penalties for those charges could be doubled under the Hawai'i hate crimes statute.
Hawai'i's hate crimes statute allows for enhanced sentencing if a crime is committed "because of hostility toward the actual or perceived race, religion, disability, ethnicity, national origin, gender identity or expression, or sexual orientation of any person."
If convicted of those charges and if the judge or jury in the case rules the crimes were "hate crimes," each of the five could face up to 10 years in prison on each of the second-degree assault and terroristic threatening counts.
The hate crimes statute would not have any effect on the maximum one-year sentence allowed for the third-degree assault counts, Ross said.
This is the second time authorities on the Big Island have attempted to prosecute a beach attack under the state's hate crime statute. In 2004, prosecutors sought extended sentences under the hate crimes law for four men accused of assaulting campers at Makalawena Beach in North Kona.
Campers at the site called police, reporting that vehicles had raced through the campsite, and that some campers had been assaulted. Campers reported their assailants made comments such as "Any ... haoles want to die?"
Big Island Prosecutor Jay Kimura said at the time, the Makalawena case was the first time Big Island prosecutors had used the hate crimes provisions.
The state later dropped the hate crime charges in exchange for guilty pleas to lesser charges in the Makalawena cases.
An assault case at O'ahu's Waikele Shopping Center in February 2007 was not prosecuted as a hate crime even though both assailants said "f------ haole" during the fight.
Prosecutors said the crime was motivated by "road rage" rather than race.
Reach Kevin Dayton at email@example.com.