Nearly two years of litigation ended yesterday when Joe Brescia, who built a house atop ancient burials at Naue, asked for and was awarded just $1 in damages from four defendants accused of civil conspiracy, trespassing, slandering his title and causing him financial harm.
As Andrew Salenger, Brescia’s attorney, told Circuit Court Judge Kathleen Watanabe via speaker phone, the law does allow a nominal award in recognition of the “technical injury” suffered by his client.
“I want to thank Brescia for not taking my money as he already took our land, our kupuna and all the other artifacts that were down in there,” said Andrew Cabebe, one of four defendants who will have to pay a share of the damages.
Kaiulani Edens-Huff asked for a change of venue, saying she is governed, as a Hawaiian national whose nation is occupied, by the Army Field Manual and Geneva Convention, not state court. “All rulings against me, even a dollar, are evidence of crimes against not only me, but the entire Hawaiian nation,” she said.
Brescia originally filed suit against 17 persons following a series of protests against the construction of his house that began in the summer of 2008. He never prevailed on his claims in court. Instead, he won default judgments against Cabebe, Edens-Huff, Hale Mawae and Dayne Gonsalves when they failed to appear for court hearings.
Edens-Huff was originally hit with damages amounting to several hundred thousand dollars, but that award was set aside pending the outcome of a trial against several other defendants.
The trial was averted when Louise Sausen, Jeff Chandler, Nani Rogers, Jim Huff and Palikapu Dedman signed settlement agreements. Salenger yesterday said Brescia also was dismissing charges against Hanalei Colleado, Andrew Perez, Ehu Cardwell, Kelii Collier, Skippy Ioane, Hanaloa Helela and Palani Kaauwai, who were named in the suit, but never served. Hanalei “Hank” Fergerstrom was earlier dropped from the suit.
As part of the default judgment, Cabebe, Edens-Huff, Mawae and Gonsalves, who never played any role in the protests against Brescia’s house, are prohibited from going to the site.
But Cabebe, who said he entered the court as a citizen of the Polynesian Kingdom of Atooi, which is led by Gonsalves, proclaimed both his innocence and his disdain for the default judgment against him.
“I stand here today not guilty,” he said. “I was brought to this property to protect my cousin [Edens-Huff, who was camping on the beach adjacent to Brescia’s lot]. I went there as a spiritual advisor. I went there for prayers. I did not want to go there. Who in their right mind would go to a graveyard to sleep? I had to go because I was called there by my ancestors. I fought them for weeks, but they would not let me alone until I submitted.”
After thanking Brescia for seeking nominal damages — “he’s finally come to his senses” — Cabebe said he answers to a higher power than the order Brescia won in Circuit Court.
“I don’t care what he says, I’m going to that property to do what I need to do for my ancestors,” Cabebe said. “I was called there and I don’t plan on leaving.”
Responded Judge Watanabe: “Let me just say, Mr. Cabebe, if you should consciously make a decision to defy any court order, which would include any kind of stipulation by the parties, you will have to be prepared to deal with the consequences, and I’ll leave it at that.”
Edens-Huff, while saying that Brescia’s decision to seek just $1 in damages was “very generous,” also noted that “my ancestors would never allow the destruction of a leina.”
Opposition to Brescia’s house was particularly vehement because the lot has at least 31 known burials, seven of them directly under the house. Cultural experts believe the site, which sits on a point, was a leina, a place where spirits jumped into the netherworld, and so is extremely sacred and likely to contain even more iwi kupuna than were disturbed for the house construction.
“In my great-grandmother’s time, to disturb a burial was punished by the crushing of a skull,” Edens-Huff said in court.