I passed through blowing mist and then a full-on squall on my way to the Lihue courthouse this morning, but when I saw a bright rainbow shining over Babylon, I figured things were going to be alright.
And they were. District Court Judge Trudy Senda dismissed trespassing charges against four of the guys arrested following an attempt last Aug. 7 to stop Joe Brescia from building his house atop burials at Naue. Charges also will be dropped against the other two who were arrested. It’s unclear what’s going to happen to the two men who have not yet been served with warrants.
Trial on the case was set for next Thursday, but attorneys Peter Morimoto and Dexter Kaiama were in court this morning defending motions to have the charges dismissed on constitutional grounds and insufficient evidence.
In the end, deputy prosecutor Justin Kollar, who was obviously anxious to avoid a trial, joined Peter and Dexter in stipulating to some rather dramatic findings of fact and conclusions of law that Judge Trudy deemed were “reasonable and appropriate” to grant the motions to dismiss.
The findings of fact stated that the defendants had pursued all the administrative remedies available to them to malama iwi kupuna — take care of ancient burials — on the property, but the administrative process had failed them. It states:
As a result of the failure of the administrative process, Defendants, believing that further desecrations were imminent, were compelled to occupy the property on August 7, 2008 to malama iwi kupuna.
The conclusions of law were based on the “choice of evils defense” established by State v. Marley, which held that defendants are justified in violating the law so long as there is no alternative available that does not involve violating the law, the harm to be prevented is imminent and the defendant’s actions are reasonably designed to actually prevent the greater harm. It states:
In this case, defendants (1) did not have any alternatives available on August 7, 2008 due to the failure of the administrative process, as subsequently recognized by the 5th Circuit Court, (2) were acting to prevent imminent harm to the iwi kupuna at the property and (3) acted reasonably to prevent further harm by peacefully placing themselves between construction and iwi kupuna.
“My main thing is that we are decriminalized,” said defendant Andre Perez of Oahu. “We walk away from this thing with dignity. We know who the real criminals were that day.”
The prosecutor’s office earlier had offered to reduce the charges to second-degree trespassing, but the defendants balked. “I’m not going to agree to something like that because I'm not guilty,” said Andrew Cabebe of Kauai. “I know in my heart I’m right.”
Still, Judge Trudy made it clear that she wasn’t giving the guys carte blanche to occupy the property, noting that “this isn’t a precedent-setting ruling in this case. These stipulations are limited to the allegations of Aug. 7 only.”
The Naue defendants weren’t the only kanaka smiling in Babylon today. I also ran into attorney Dan Hempey, who had just gotten charges dismissed against Titus Kinimaka, who had been cited for running a surf school without a county license. But as Dan pointed out to the judge, the county ordinance stated that only those without licenses could offer commercial services in county parks. “I’m going to have to take it literally,” Judge Trudy said in dismissing the charges.
I imagine that bit in the ordinance will be revised — eventually. How long do you suppose it takes the county to get around to fixing stuff like that? And do they employ proofreaders? In the meantime, Titus can keep on teaching, and as Dan noted, surfing is about as Native Hawaiian as you can get.
Dayne Aipoalani, leader of the Kingdom of Atooi, was also in court today and had charges dropped against him, although I’m not sure what the alleged offense was. Like others who challenge the Western system, he ends up spending a lot of time in court extricating himself from it. He’s still facing trial for charges stemming from the Aug. 26, 2007 protest over the Hawaii Superferry.
Interesting, that of all the people arrested, only Dayne and Robert Pa, two kanaka, are still being prosecuted. Everybody else got off. Should be interesting to see what Hempey has up his sleeve when he takes that case to trial as Dayne's court-appointed attorney.