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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, January 22, 2009

Child abuser sent to prison to await Hawaii sovereignty appeal

By Jim Dooley
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Rita Makekau

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Convicted child abuser Rita Makekau began serving a five-year prison sentence yesterday after Circuit Judge Virginia Crandall reversed an earlier decision that allowed Makekau to remain free.

Crandall originally said Makekau could delay the start of her sentence while she pursued a claim of immunity from prosecution because of Native Hawaiian sovereignty.

But yesterday Crandall granted a motion from prosecutor Peter Carlisle to reconsider her earlier ruling and sent Makekau to prison.

Makekau, 58, pleaded no contest to eight counts of abusing five nieces and nephews in 2004 and 2005 in what prosecutors called a "house of torture."

According to court records, she broke and chipped the children's teeth by hitting them with a hammer and left scars on their scalps after cutting them with a knife.

The children, now 10 to 18 years old, were removed by the state in 2006 from the Wai'anae house where the abuse took place. Makekau's daughter and son-in-law, Barbara and Gabriel Kalama, also pleaded no contest to charges, including second-degree assault, child endangerment and abuse of a family member.

Makekau was "the worst offender," prosecutors said.

Collete Dhakwha, a court-appointed attorney representing the children, said after the hearing, "the children are overjoyed" by Crandall's new ruling.

"They are immensely relieved that they won't have to worry about her anymore," she said.

Crandall said the reconsideration motion that Carlisle's office filed contained convincing arguments that Makekau would be unlikely to prevail in her appeal and should begin serving her prison sentence immediately.

While agreeing to send Makekau to prison, Crandall said the prosecutor's objections to her earlier decision were filed late and were "very disrespectful of this court" and of the state Judiciary.

Carlisle said after the hearing, "I'm very satisfied with the ruling."

As for Crandall's comments about disrespect, Carlisle said, "I reviewed the entire record and transcripts and I'm satisfied that we did everything that we were required to do."

A spokesman for Makekau's sovereignty group, Hawaiian Kingdom Government, claimed after the hearing that Makekau "hasn't done anything wrong."

Makekau calls herself "Her Highness Rita Kulamika Makekau, Royal Minister of Foreign Affairs for the Hawaiian Kingdom Government."

The courts have no jurisdiction over Makekau, said the sovereignty group's spokesman, David-Wynn Miller. Miller said he is a "plenipotentiary judge, ambassador and postmaster" based in Milwaukee.

Reach Jim Dooley at jdooley@honoluluadvertiser.com.