Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Musings: Shay's Sandbox

It was another high-powered day at the courthouse, with Judge Randal Valenciano ruling that Mayor Bernard Carvalho did indeed have the right to suspend Police Chief Darryl Perry earlier this year.

And Prosecutor Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho asked the Hawaii Supreme Court to remove Judge Kathleen Watanabe from the Darren Galas murder case, and sanction her for alleged improper conduct.

Ironically, the two events are linked. The mayor's action — taken in response to an officer who felt Perry had ignored her harassment complaints — had a profound domino effect. It drove a wedge between KPD brass, with two top officers still out on leave. It also caused a rift  between the chief and deputy county attorney Justin Kollar, who is running for prosecutor. This led to Perry and Prosecutor Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho forming a political alliance.

One result of that alliance was last Friday's arrest of Galas in the highly publicized “Never Forget Sandy G” murder.

Now court documents are making it increasingly clear that Shay took extraordinary steps to get the Galas murder case to the Grand Jury before the election, and lied about Judge  Watanabe to the state's highest court.

In her response to Shay's request for a writ of mandamus, which I reported on yesterday, Judge Watanabe says that Shay convened a grand jury session on Friday, without the court's prior approval. She also disputes many of the allegations that Shay and her first deputy, Jake Delaplane, made about the circumstances related to the Grand Jury's return. The state attorney general, representing the judge, argues Shay is not legally entitled to the writ.

Jonathan Chun, grand jury counsel, filed a declaration that backs up Judge Watanabe. He also outlines how Shay unilaterally decided to bring the grand jury in on Friday, and was repeatedly warned of time constraints by both the judge and jurors, but still pushed the proceedings too late.

Meanwhile, Shay stirred the pot further today, filing additional documents with the high court asking for Watanabe's recusal and claiming she and her staff had engaged in judicial misconduct.

The high court yesterday ordered Judge Watanabe to hold a hearing to receive the grand jury's return, but gave her two days to respond to Shay's request for the writ. Shay claims the judge used Monday afternoon's hearing to subject her to 15 minutes of “lambasting” in “retaliation” for filing the writ:

Judge Watanabe further called the integrity and veracity of the Prosecutor and her staff into question by suggesting that there were “misrepresentations and clear untruths” contained within the Petition for Writ of Mandamus, without detailing the substance or nature of these alleged lies or giving the Prosecutor an opportunity to respond. It appeared, from the repeated nature of Judge Watanabe’s attacks, that the purpose of the open session had transformed into a forum by which Judge Watanabe was attempting to harass, embarrass, and retaliate against the Prosecutor for filing the Petition for Writ of Mandamus.”

Oh, poor little Shay-Shay. She turns the judiciary upside down with her highly-politicized, drama queen antics, potentially jeopardizing a murder trial, and then cries about getting scolded by the judge she's just burned. What, Shay, you didn't think you'd ever run into Kathleen again?

You'll love this, a classic case of Shay calling the kettle black:

Judge Watanabe’s statements were shocking, improper, and devoid of qualities that promote public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary.

Unbelievably, Shay also tries to make like Judge Watanabe revealed Galas as the subject of the grand jury investigation. Uh, Shay, what about those two press releases — one from you and an identical one from KPD — announcing Galas' arrest? Seems you should have held off on the publicity because it doesn't take a genius to figure out the guy in jail on $1 million dollar bail was the grand jury focus. Not to mention you made it pretty darn clear in your writ of mandamus, which is a public document available on line.

But Shay wants more than just to have the judge recused and sanctioned. She also wants the state Supreme Court to initiate an investigation into the supposedly improper comments that the judge's staff supposedly made to me in yesterday's post, and prohibit the judge and her staff from making any further statements.

One can only wonder what the Justices will be thinking as they read these documents and realize they've been sucked into Shay's sandbox. One can only hope that they will censor Shay and Jake for their unethical conduct in politicizing a murder trial and trying to discredit a highly reputable Circuit Court judge.

Or who knows. Now that Bernard clearly has the legal authority to suspend department heads, maybe he'll step in and remove Shay and Jake before they can do further damage. Wouldn't that be interesting.

Finally, I asked Chief Perry if he had a comment on the ruling, and he replied: “As you know, there is an appeal process so if you don't mind, I would like for the Police Commission to explore that avenue before commenting on the judge's decision."

Monday, October 29, 2012

Musings: SIC vs Watanabe

OK, so here's what really happened regarding the Darren Galas murder arrest. My report is based on a conversation with a clerk in Judge Kathleen Watanabe's office, and court documents.

Judge Watanabe was assigned to the Grand Jury proceedings last Thursday, Oct. 25. Without the approval of the court, the jury was ordered back on Friday for one more case. Watanabe told the Office of Prosecuting Attorney (OPA) that she was available to process the Grand Jury returns only until noon, as she had appointments that afternoon. The prosecutor requested more time, and the Judge made herself available until 1 p.m.

First prosecutor Jake Delaplane asked the judge to do a Grand Jury return after 1:30 p.m. but her clerks told him she was not available. The judge returned Jake's phone call when her meetings were completed and discussed his various options for proceeding, including filing a motion with her court on Monday asking to receive the Grand Jury's return. She was informed that prosecutors had already secured an arrest warrant. Gallas was arrested Friday night.

Today, acting on behalf of Prosecutor Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho, Jake filed a writ of mandamus — which translates as an extraordinary remedy — with the Hawaii Supreme Court. They are asking the high court to direct Watanabe to immediately convene an open session of her court to receive the return from last week's Grand Jury session.

In the writ, Shay claims that at 2 p.m. Friday, Jake “received a call from the media informing him that someone in the courthouse had informed the media that a murder case had been presented to the Grand Jury that day.”

(You may recall that Jake contacted KKCR on Thursday afternoon and said he and Shay could not be on the scheduled radio program because they were working on a big case.)

Shay goes on to claim: “Because the media appeared to have access to confidential information regarding the Grand Jury proceeding and it was unknown as to the extent that this information was available members of the public, or even the defendant in the case that was presented, it became a critical matter of public safety that the defendant be apprehended immediately.”

According to the writ, Jake then went to KPD and informed them of what had happened, and they got a District Court judge to sign the arrest warrant shortly after 4 p.m. When Judge Watanabe called Jake back, he reportedly asked her to receive the Grand Jury's return so they wouldn't have to go the trouble of doing a preliminary hearing. The judge indicated he could file a motion on Monday making that request.

Instead, the OPA took the unprecedented step of going directly to the Hawaii Supreme Court. They are hoping to force the judge to accept the grand jury proceedings so they don't have to stage a preliminary hearing this week — a hearing that would involve some 20 witnesses.

Does anyone still believe that Shay and KPD aren't politically motivated in rushing this? A guy who has been free for six and a half years is suddenly a public safety threat? 

Update: The Hawaii Supreme Court did order Judge Watanabe to receive the Grand Jury return by 4 p.m. today; however, the proceedings couldn't be scheduled until tomorrow.  Interestingly, the high court also gave Judge Watanabe two days to respond to the order. What's the point, if the proceedings have to be held before she can reply?

It's a little disturbing to think the high court relied solely on the "record" as provided in the writ, since some of that information was wrong. For example, Jake and Shay falsely claimed in the writ: 

The reason cited by the Court’s clerk of Judge Watanabe’s refusal to take the return on Monday October 29, 2012 was the cost of bringing back three individuals: the Grand Jury foreperson, The Grand Jury Secretary, and Grand Jury Counsel. 

The Judge and her clerk never said that. Jake was told that he, like any other attorney who wanted the court to take up a matter, could file a motion stating that request on Monday. Instead, they went directly to the high court.

Meanwhile, Galas was scheduled for arraignment this afternoon in District Court. 

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Musings: October No Surprise

Gee, I must be  psychic. Just yesterday, I wrote: Don't be surprised if [Kauai Prosecutor Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho] orchestrates a splashy 'big crime solved, bad guy arrested' scenario in these last days of voting in an attempt to make herself look good.

And then voila, first thing this morning, just in time for the Sunday paper, the county web site posts a news release: KPD arrested Darren Galas for the murder of his estranged wife, Sandra — as in never forget Sandy G.

Imagine that. A six-year-old, high-profile murder suddenly solved by Shay's "cold case unit," just as people are going to the polls. The timing, as one observer noted, was “ really stunningly serendipitous.”

The timing isn't the only thing that's kinky. The grand jury, the place where murder cases are typically taken up, convened Thursday, and came back for an unprecedented second session on Friday. But it did not return an indictment against Galas.

Instead, Galas was brought in Friday on an arrest warrant. It's much easier to get an arrest warrant, because all that's required is an affidavit from the investigator. An indictment needs live witnesses, and the consensus of at least eight grand jurors. It speaks to a much stronger case.

When a grand jury doesn't return an indictment on the first go-round, prosecutors usually work to improve the case and take it back a second time. There's certainly no need to rush it when the case is six years old and the suspect lives in Kalaheo.

Unless you're trying to use a woman's murder to advance your political prospects, and the grand jury won't convene again until after the election.

By pushing forward, Shay has potentially undermined the case and handed the defense a huge argument — that the timing was a political decision designed to promote her political prospects.

Gee, I wonder how Judge Trudy Senda, currently on vacation, will feel about having this little pile laid in her courtroom next week, with an arraignment required within 48 hours of Galas' arrest, and a preliminary hearing 48 hours after that.

This entire affair brought back memories of an August 17 post:

Amazing, how the cops made those North Shore burglary arrests just in time for the Princeville “public safety” meeting, which drew the biggest crowd yet. Actually, the arrests were made last week and last month, but they weren't announced until the night before the meeting. Wonder what they've got saved up for the Kapaa meeting, seeing as how a date has not yet been set. An arrest in the Amber Jackson murder?

So transparent, these guys.

But you'll be pleased to know that, according to an email from Chief Perry, "we (meaning KPD and OPA) are actively working on others that are still unsolved."

Shay, no surprise, did not respond to a request for comment. 

Friday, October 26, 2012

Musings: Wildly Inappropriate

Out into the chill of 66 degrees, glad for long pants and flannel shirt, stars brilliant, Jupiter, on the lesser than side of Triangle, lighting one end of the road, where the mountains are hulking, and Venus, hovering in a sky the faintest hint of pink, the other. And all the while, flashes of white, like sheet lightning, though no clouds can be seen.

It remains to be seen what rabbit Prosecutor Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho plans to pull out of the hat to turn the election in her favor. She missed a scheduled radio debate yesterday, reportedly claiming she was detained with work. Was it because the Grand Jury, which also met yesterday, failed to return an indictment she was seeking and had hoped to publicize? Curiously, the Jury is meeting again today, in what is a rare, if not unprecedented, occurrence on Kauai. As I, and others, have been saying all along: don't be surprised if Shay orchestrates a splashy “big crime solved, bad guy arrested” scenario in these last days of voting in an attempt to make herself look good.

Meanwhile, Shay has rewarded yet another loyalist with a fat raise. As I learned from a public records request, Shay recently promoted Kerrileen “Nani” Lizama, her campaign treasurer, to the position of program assistant, with an annual salary of $55,000. Previously, Lizama was making $32,430 a year as law office assistant. That's a whopping 72% pay hike — even bigger than the raise awarded to OPA blogger Charley Foster, who got a 45% pay hike within six weeks of being hired as the office's appellate attorney.

Curiously, though Foster found time to switch his political allegiance and hold sign for his boss, as well as start blogging on her behalf, he failed to file any opposition when convicted sex offender James Mundon asked the Hawaii Supreme Court to review an Intermediate Court of Appeals ruling where the prosecutor had prevailed. Strange how it wasn't a priority for a fulltime appellate attorney to respond to that request — especially since it was the one case that Shay took to trial as prosecutor. But then, perhaps Charley wasn't thinking straight, mesmerized instead by Shay's "thick, earthy pidgin creole." 

Meanwhile, does anyone else find it wildly inappropriate that both Charley and Shay's first deputy, Jake Delaplane, are publicly attacking Councilman Tim Bynum, who is the plaintiff in a lawsuit against their office and their boss?

Jake taped a segment on Hoike (it starts at the 16.50-minute mark) entitled “Where's the Rice Cooker?” where he accuses Tim of spreading “lies and misleading information” about the circumstances that led to Shay charging Tim with a misdemeanor zoning violation. Though Jake starts by identifying himself as the first deputy, he claims he is not speaking in his “official capacity.”

I think the people deserve the truth,” Jake says. But he fails to mention two key facts in the case: Jake and his entire office were recused because their inappropriate behavior created a conflict of interest, and all charges against Tim were dismissed.

Isn't it ethically inappropriate for Jake to continue trying a case on public access TV when he was recused and the charges were dropped? Doesn't that behavior put the county at risk of incurring even greater damages in Tim's lawsuit? 

Jake says that Tim has repeatedly claimed he was illegally prosecuted for a rice cooker. He then flashes a photo allegedly taken in Tim's family room that shows a sink with dishes and a refrigerator before saying, “Where's the rice cooker, Mr. Bynum?” Actually, we know there was a rice cooker, because planning inspector Patrick Henriques referenced it during a conversation that Jake secretly taped.

It's quite remarkable how Jake and Charley have stepped forward to do Shay's dirty work in this election. In the process, they've put their own professional reputations on the line. They may think it's worth it, to protect their boss and their six-figure salaries. But in a small legal community like Kauai, and even Hawaii, such actions don't go unnoticed.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Musings: Wild Cards

Spent yesterday hiking the kick-butt Kukui Trail in and out of Waimea Canyon. I'd always wanted to check out the floor of the canyon I'd looked into so many times, and I finally got the chance, motivated by a story assignment. It's so spectacularly beautiful and peaceful — in between the near-constant helicopter traffic.
Along with albezia and guinea grass, choppers are the scourge of Kauai. Surely they're a factor in the decline of native birds. So how come those guys have never had to do an EIS on the tremendous impact of their industry? Speaking of which, I'm glad to see Earthjustice is mounting a legal challenge to the commercial aquarium fish industry. The number of marine animals it's been collecting from the wild is insane.

I recall that Councilman KipuKai Kualii sponsored the County Council resolution calling for the Legislature to impose a statewide ban on the industry. KipuKai has been on the right side of so many issues. I can only hope that when he is re-elected, he shifts his alliance from the dark side — Mel Rapozo — to the light. Cause sorry, Mel, but you squandered all the points you earned opposing TVRs on ag land by functioning as the self-appointed, self-serving champion of Prosecutor Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho.

Anyway, it was really great yesterday to get totally away from the computer, smart phone, politics. And then I came down off the mountain, down off my cloud, and saw Justin Kollar holding sign in Waimea, catching the surprisingly heavy PMRF pau hana traffic.

I just published an article in Honolulu Weekly about a key race on Oahu — Keiko Bonk, a Green, is challenging longtime Speaker of the House Calvin Say, a Democrat. Keiko opposes the Public Land Development Corp., while Say is a proponent. When I asked Say what he thought about calls for repealing the PLDC, he replied, in part:

My first preference is to maintain the PLDC law unamended for now. The PLDC has not yet adopted administrative rules or the public land optimization strategic plan as required by the law. It has not yet proposed any specific project. Thus, I feel that call for the repeal or amendment of the PLDC law is premature.
For now, the PLDC should be given an opportunity to operate and prove its worth. At the least, the PLDC should be given the opportunity to adopt its rules and prepare its strategic plan.

Opponents have been very vocal against the broad exemption authority granted to the PLDC (which does not include an exemption from the environmental review process or special management area law). I am confident that the PLDC has taken notice of the opposition and, consequently, will not abuse the exemption authority. I believe the PLDC will be sensitive to public sentiment.

The race is important because Sen. President Shan Tsutsui plans to introduce one bill calling for the repeal of Act 55, which created the PLDC, and another for amendments to the law. If Say is re-elected and opts to hold the bills, they'll never even get a hearing. But a Bonk win could be the wild card that changes the long-standing dynamics of power-brokering in the Lege.

Who knows? Maybe we'll see a few surprises this election. Let's just hope one of them isn't a Romney-Ryan victory.

Which is why I just have to share this video, as it underscores how much is at stake for women in this election. It actually made me cry to think women are still fighting for the right to control our own bodies. As they say in the video, “We will not go backwards.”

And finally, Shaylene and Justin will be answering questions on KKCR from 4 to 6 p.m. today, with hosts Jimmy Trujillo and Felicia Alongi-Cowden. You can tune it at 91.9 or listen live on-line. It coincides with the station's pledge drive, so it's a great chance to kick down a donation to this worthy community organization, too.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Musings: On Waking Up

One reason I like waking up early, aside from the fact that I just naturally do, is the promise held in the break of day, the reminder that change is a constant, the little thrill that comes from seeing what's in store, like unwrapping a present that never ceases to please, amaze and surprise.

In short, it always gives me hope, for which I am grateful. I just got an email from the American Society of Journalists and Authors, asking me to participate in a survey with the Dart Center for Journalism andTrauma. It seems “[l]ittle is known about the specific hazards encountered by working journalists.”

Indeed. It's tough enough covering local politics, cultural genocide, increasing militarism, environmental destruction and the teeter-tottering of a corrupt and dysfunctional system, while making enemies along the way. I can't even imagine throwing physical violence into the mix. But the hardest part is knowing that a lot of people just don't want to hear anything they deem “negative,” or they want it sugar-coated, or in small, occasional doses that are easy to swallow — and ignore.

Yet somehow, this information does percolate through, and it's changing people's views. In a forward to “Censored 2013: The Top Censored Stories and Media Analysis of 2011-2012,” Dr. Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed writes:

The majority of people now hold views about Western governments and the nature of power that would have made them social pariahs 10 or 20 years ago.

In other words, he continues, there has been a massive popular shift in public opinion toward a progressive critique of the current political economic system.”

As NewsReview.com notes, in its lead-up to Project Censored's 10 most underreported stories of the year, "There may be hope after all."  So what were the important stories that got so little attention? Continued assault on civil liberties; oceans in peril; U.S. deaths from Fukushima nuclear disaster; FBI agents responsible for terrorists plots; Federal Reserve loaned trillions to major banks; small network of corporations run the global economy; the growing popularity of cooperative business models; NATO war crimes in Libya; prison slavery in the United States; and House Resolution 347 criminalizes protest.

The prison slavery one was especially intriguing, because most of the stuff they make is for the Department of Defense. Gee, maybe that helps explain the record-high imprisonment rate in the U.S. Not to mention that more than 60 percent of the prisoners are people of color.....

Just a few things to think about as you cast your ballot. And now it's easier than ever, what with walk-in voting starting today at the county annex (next door to the historic county building) and continuing from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays, up until Nov. 3. 

I think just everybody is tired of the campaigning, which seems to have been endless, obscenely expensive, dirty and often vacuous this year. I especially liked Jon Letman's assessment, posted on Facebook:

Early voting begins in Hawaii today (thank God!). No matter who wins, soon we can get back to the urgent task of dominating the world and neglecting the planet.

Maybe one day they'll do away with ballots altogether, and candidates will pay to post their photos and a few pithy one-liners on Facebook. Whoever gets the most “likes” and “shares” wins. It may be the only way that Facebook, over-valued in more ways than one, will ever make money.

Speaking of Facebook, got a laugh out of this video, which like all good satire has enough kernels of truth to cause discomfort with the giggles. I especially liked the news crawlers.

And speaking of truth, Democracy Now! reports today that retired CIA agent John Kiriakou, who publicly confirmed the torture of al-Qaeda operative Abu Zubaydah and spoke out against waterboarding, is set to plead guilty in court today to leaking classified information. “Kiriakou’s indictment earlier this year marked the latest in the Obama administration’s crackdown on government whistleblowers.”

Thank goodness some people are still willing to speak up, despite the personal cost.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Musings: Life Lessons

As I watch a starry sky brighten and shift to soft salmon streaks, the slopes of Makaleha blushing, I check my bees, already up and out at first light, and think of Sharon Pomroy, who was just taken off life support, and a message her sister left on Facebook, asking anyone that Sharon had hurt to please forgive her, as she didn't mean it.

Life is short, and can change in an instant. We all hurt each other, and usually, we don't mean it, so perhaps we can do less of it if we try harder. Forgiveness is always good, even if you can't forget.  

Just some basic life lessons that we all keep re-learning.....

I've heard a number of people asking about and talking about the Department of Water's settlement in the atrazine lawsuit. There seem to be a number of misconceptions, including that the lawsuit is related to current Syngenta operations.

I recently did a short article on this for Honolulu Weekly, which I'll reprint here, in hopes of clearing up some of the confusion:

The Kauai County Department of Water could be eligible for $5,000 to $10,000 in settlement funds in a national class-action suit against Syngenta, which produced atrazine, an herbicide detected in groundwater at Lihue and Hanapepe, says Deputy Manager Bill Eddy. The money would be used to cover the costs of testing for atrazine, an endocrine-disrupting pesticide heavily used in sugar cane cultivation.
Though denying any wrongdoing, Syngenta has agreed to create a $105 million fund to settle litigation initiated by the City of Greenville, Ill. The suit claimed Syngenta knew atrazine would enter drinking water supplies, and sought costs to pay for its removal.
Eddy said Kauai County conducts regular water monitoring and atrazine has not been detected since 2007, when it was found in trace amounts in a Lihue water source. “We don’t believe it is currently in wide use,” he said.
It is also used on corn, which Syngenta cultivates on the island’s west side, but officials did not respond to a call asking whether atrazine is being used on that crop. If the settlement is approved, Syngenta would be released from all claims that were or could have been asserted in the litigation for the next 10 years.

However, that does not release Syngenta from liability in any other litigation, just this particular case. It seems to me that this is an example of why the public and the agencies that serve us need to know just what pesticides the big agricultural operations are using.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Musings: Had to Laugh

It's always such a marvel, the way the sun is sometimes blindingly bright, while at other times, it can be gazed upon without a blink or squint. Such was the case this morning, as it rose, a wan red ball, from a wind-tossed sea that was warmer than the sand, warmer than the air, and sparkling, giving the foam that shiny gloss, like meringue.

To get there, I drove through a subdivision that now is sporting Neighborhood Watch signs. Except, it's not exactly a neighborhood, because a good 70 percent of the houses are second homes and very high-end vacation rentals, some of which are lacking permits.

I had to laugh a bit at the hubris — the “community” association of an agricultural subdivision with just one farm, that uses low-priced ag water to irrigate its roadsides and often the streets, that has a flawed drainage plan that allows storm runoff to erode the beach and muddy the reef, and oceanfront owners who cut down trees and dump herbicides on the sand, taking the stance that it's watching who comes in and what we do.

It was either laugh, or get seriously pissed off at their cheekiness. Because you know that if one of them calls the cops, the blue and whites are gonna fly. But what about those of us who are watching the other neighborhood, the one inhabited by wild occupants, the birds, the bees, the turtles, seals and fish? When we call to complain about the dirty deeds that some landowners perpetrate, our complaints either fall on deaf ears or are routed into a bureaucratic labyrinth that ultimately doesn't do much, if anything.

I also had to laugh at a comment that was left this morning, and has been left in the past, that I have been promised a job in the Office of Prosecuting Attorney when Justin Kollar gets elected. The assumption that my blogs are motivated by thoughts of personal gain speak volumes, and none of it good, about those who support Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho and the cronyism and corruption that she represents. 

In fact, I have no interest in working for Justin or the OPA, and have never been promised or offered any job. I write what I write because I'm alarmed by the antics and actions of a person who has tremendous power, and the ability to seriously mess with people's lives by charging them with crimes and getting them thrown in jail. 

Today the anonymous — always, they are anonymous — commenter claimed “she wants the job of the OPA blogger.” Actually, there isn't such a position, nor should there be. The person who currently holds that post was hired as an appellant attorney.

Thus far, he has argued two appeals to the Hawaii Supreme Court. He lost the first one, when the high court earlier this week unanimously agreed that evidence that had been improperly obtained by police in a drug case had been properly suppressed by the Fifth Circuit Court.

This week, the OPA blogger argued the second case — State vs James Mundon — which just so happens to be the one case Shay actually took to trial as prosecutor. Mundon, who represented himself, was initially charged with 28 counts. In December 2005, he was found guilty of five counts — kidnapping, terroristic threatening, third degree assault, second degree attempted assault and first degree attempted sexual assault. He was acquitted of the remaining charges.

Mundon appealed, and the Hawaii Supreme Court reversed the terroristic threatening charge, vacated his remaining convictions and ordered a new trial. In the second trial, he was found guilty of attempted sexual assault in the first degree, kidnapping and two counts of assault in the second degree.

Mundon appealed again, and while the Intermediate Court of Appeals disagreed with several of his claims, it did vacate his sentencing, as well as an order of restitution, and directed the Circuit Court to resentence Mundon.

However, Mundon asked the Hawaii Supreme Court to again consider the case, and it agreed, with the OPA blogger participating in oral arguments held this past week.

In other court news, drug charges filed against Shane Johnson following a raid last December of the Oklevueha Native American Church were dismissed without prejudice earlier this week. The OPA felt the indictment had been improperly drafted, because it did not include a reference to the specific mind-altering chemical  substance in peyote, and indicated it needed to be refiled. However, it's unclear whether Shane, who was charged with multiple counts of possessing marijuana, as well as peyote used as a church sacrament, will be re-indicted, or if the case will be dropped.

Shay has taken a strong stance against marijuana, claiming it's a "gateway drug" and recently revealing that she has directed KPD to impound any car where marijuana is seen so a search warrant can be obtained to look for other drugs. She's also argued against the use of medical marijuana for pain. I've often wondered why people who love the booze vehemently oppose marijuana, when alcohol is so much more dangerous to the user and frequently a factor in domestic violence and other aggressive crimes.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Musings: Patterns

It rained in the night, and some clouds were still present, forming little halos around Jupiter and Venus and revealing, then hiding again, the patterns within the stars when the dogs and I went walking this morning.

As has become its pattern in recent months, the County Council sparred with Prosecutor Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho — this time over her derailment of Teen Court. Except yesterday Councilman Mel Rapozo was emceeing the show. Which is why Shay got to deliver a few long-winded repetitive rants, and rebut everyone twice — and two recesses were called to shut Councilman Tim Bynum up.

But then, I guess we shouldn't be surprised at Mel's overt bias toward Shay. After all, he knows which side of his bread is buttered — literally and figuratively.

I find it quite curious how Shay and her first deputy, Jake Delaplane, always move as a unit, like a ventriloquist and her dummy. Do you suppose she keeps him in a box at the foot of her bed at night? It would be humorous if he weren't pulling down a six-figure salary as her handmaiden.

Don't get me wrong. There were amusing moments. Like when Mel, who has actually earned kala from the OPA, tried to make like County Attorney Al Castillo had a conflict because he once served as a volunteer judge for Teen Court.

And I loved the part where Shay claimed she was the only prosecutor in state to start a diversion program. Gee, I distinctly recall her trying to blame former Prosecutor Craig DeCosta for starting the diversionary program that got her in trouble.

Mostly, though, I just felt sad, thinking of all the people — kids and adults alike — who have been, to borrow the words of Herman Hesse, “crushed beneath the wheel” during Shay's “leadership” of the Office of Prosecuting Attorney. Btw, the OPA has a brand new website. But just like the old one, the VISION link is dead. Nuff said....

Personally, I love the concept of diversionary programs. All but the most violent offenders should be diverted out of the American judicial system, which is so systemically sick it incarcerates a greater percentage of its population than any nation in the world.

But when I heard them promoting Keiki POHAKU as a way to clear charges that could keep kids out of the military, well, then I started thinking maybe that particular diversionary program isn't such a benevolent thing. After all, it's a lot cheaper to turn kids into cannon fodder for America's endless wars than it is to incarcerate or — God forbid — rehabilitate them. That's why I felt a little sick when I heard Councilman Dickie Chang, who admitted he'd never actually been in the military, talk about how drill sergeants can make kids grow up fast. Yeah, and so does the bloody combat that so often follows the indoctrination and dehumanization of boot camp.

Speaking of which, I was sent an interesting article about how a recent study found that soldiers with low levels of omega-3 fatty acids are at a greater risk of suicide. The findings prompted the Army to consider that “a simple nutritional intervention” could help reverse that trend. Uh, how about just bringing the troops home?

Meanwhile, an article in The Independent reports on a new study, published in the Environmental Contamination and Toxicology bulletin, that shows a link between the Western military invasion of Iraq and an increased rate of birth defects in that nation:

High rates of miscarriage, toxic levels of lead and mercury contamination and spiralling numbers of birth defects ranging from congenital heart defects to brain dysfunctions and malformed limbs have been recorded. Even more disturbingly, they appear to be occurring at an increasing rate in children born in Fallujah, about 40 miles west of Baghdad.
There is "compelling evidence" to link the increased numbers of defects and miscarriages to military assaults, says Mozhgan Savabieasfahani, one of the lead authors of the report and an environmental toxicologist at the University of Michigan's School of Public Health. Similar defects have been found among children born in Basra after British troops invaded, according to the new research.

The latest study found that in Fallujah, more than half of all babies surveyed were born with a birth defect between 2007 and 2010. Before the siege, this figure was more like one in 10. Prior to the turn of the millennium, fewer than 2 per cent of babies were born with a defect. More than 45 per cent of all pregnancies surveyed ended in miscarriage in the two years after 2004, up from only 10 per cent before the bombing.

American forces later admitted that they had used white phosphorus shells [in Fallujah], although they never admitted to using depleted uranium, which has been linked to high rates of cancer and birth defects.

But then, the military has a longstanding pattern of denial when it comes to toxic depleted uranium (DU). Tthe Army for years denied that it had ever used DU here in Hawaii — until its presence was inadvertently confirmed in emails that Earthjustice subpoenaed in its lawsuits over live fire training at Makua. As a result of citizen pressure, the Army applied for a federal license to possess the DU in Hawaii and elsewhere.

However, as I report in the Honolulu Weekly, the Army is now four years into the process and it's still denying it needs such a license. But if it must have one, it wants no conditions attached, such as air monitoring, as the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has proposed.

Just something to keep in mind as the military continues to expand its presence in Hawaii and perpetuate the fiction that it's a good neighbor as it conducts live fire training exercises on Oahu, Big Island and Kaula islet, off Kauai. Moderns munitions are the deadly gift that just keep on destroying, long after the bombs have been dropped and the "good guys" go home.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Musings: Democracy, American Style

Looking past the blah-blah big yawn of whether Obama or Romney won the most recent battle of words, I was much more interested in the fact that the Green Party was not only once again excluded from the debate, but its candidates were arrested after they tried to enter the debate hall.

Yup, Jill Stein and her vice presidential running mate Cheri Honkala were not only nabbed, but spent eight hours handcuffed to a metal chair in a remote police warehouse on Long Island.

It seems so damn hypocritical that we're killing Taliban and occupying other nations, supposedly to shove democracy down their throats, but when totally legitimate candidates who will appear on 85 percent of America's ballot try to join a debate, they're faced with armed cops. As Salon.com reports:

Stein and Honkala were met by a line of Nassau County police as they approached the debate grounds entrance with a group of supporters. “We are here to bring the courage of those excluded from our politics to this mock debate, this mockery of democracy,” Stein said in an impromptu press conference before her arrest.

Check out the video that Hofstra University students made, especially the point at 1:11, when all the big male cops bust their power moves on two small women. Speaks volumes. My favorite part comes at the end, when one of the bully cops says, “watch the flag.” Cause, yeah, you wouldn't want a piece of cloth to touch the ground when you're stifling the freedom of speech that is the cornerstone of democracy.

So why wasn't the Green Party allowed to join Tweedle Dee and TweedleDum on the podium? According to ABC News:

In addition to the constitutional criteria to be eligible for the presidency, the Presidential Debate Commission requires that candidates have a mathematical possibility of achieving the 270 electoral college votes necessary to be elected, and the candidates must have at least 15 percent support in public opinion based on the average of five national polls in order to participate.

But if Green Party candidates aren't given any media coverage, and they refuse to accept the corporate contributions that require them to sell their souls in order to buy TV ads, well, then, how are they supposed to meet the criteria set out by the Debate Commission? Can you spell bogus?

Why do you suppose the Debate Commission is so keen to stifle other voices? Perhaps because if you actually heard what Jill Stein had to say you'd vote for her. As Huffington Post blogger Carl Gibson noted:

Jill Stein is a candidate that the other 90 million of us can get excited about. Picture the populist candidate Barack Obama once was in 2008, minus the financial support from Wall Street banks and oil companies, and the fawning coverage from mainstream media outlets. In her Green New Deal she's vowing to end drone strikes, tightly regulate Wall Street, halt all government-funded construction of fossil fuel-dependent projects, and end all foreign wars and occupations. She unabashedly calls for higher top tax rates like we saw in the days of FDR and Eisenhower, and the immediate closure of corporate tax loopholes that bleed out billions to overseas, tax-free bank accounts where the elite have stashed anywhere between $21 trillion and $32 trillion. As president, she would appoint Supreme Court justices who believe corporations are corporations, not people, and fight to get corporate money and influence out of the political process.

Sounds pretty threatening to the corporate status quo. No wonder they want to shut her up. Plus, she's a woman.

But remember, you still have a vote, and you can cast it any way you like, including for someone who shares your values and views. You don't have to hold your nose and choose between the lesser of two evils. As Stein so aptly noted, “Only we can take it back and make it democratic again.”

If you want to learn more about other candidates, Democracy Now! has expanded the debate. In this segment, Stein and Rocky Anderson of the Justice Party respond to questions posed to presidential candidates in the first debate. And today, parts of last night’s debate are re-aired, and the videotape paused to give Stein, Anderson and Constitution Party nominee Virgil Goode a chance to respond to the same questions that were posed to Obama and Romney.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Musings: Beyond the Walls

In the night came a sound I haven't heard much lately in these weeks of dead calm: the wind soughing through the ironwoods. It was followed, before dawn, by the delightfully welcome patter of rain, which continued to fall from the trees long after the shower had stopped, adorning the leaves and needles with drops that sparkled in the first rays of sun.

I had seen other sparkles, hours before, when Koko had to go out at 1:30 p.m. My yawns quickly turned to exclamations of amazement at the blackness of the sky and brilliant clarity of the stars, which seemed almost close enough to touch in the darkness of this new moon, when the fledging Newell's shearwaters are most vulnerable to artificial lights. 

So I can't understand how it is that crews are allowed to continue doing brightly-lit night work to install a water line in Wailua, a major shearwater flyway, at the peak of the fledging season.

Meanwhile, the notice sent out for Wednesday night's meeting on the big water drilling plan advised folks to bring flashlights as the lights at King K School would be turned off to protect shearwaters. Go figure.....

I went to the Seed and Plant Exchange yesterday, an event I've never attended, but did this year to staff the Kauai Beekeepers Association booth, since organic gardening is a natural complement to healthy bees. It was neat to see people all excited about seeds and plants. A few of the Hindu monks showed up — they've been big supporters of the Regenerations Botanical Garden and seed bank — and Palaniswami commented that the monastery is now growing 80 percent of its food.

Later, I got to talking with a friend, about how it's really not so far-fetched to think we can do a lot more to feed ourselves. The monks, who number 22, produce the bulk of what they eat, and they're not out there slaving in the fields all day, every day. They manage to pull it off while still holding down the equivalent of what we would consider full time jobs, while also maintaining the buildings and extensive grounds. Not to mention devoting hours to devotion.

So despite what we're repeatedly told by the folks who want to use the island's ag lands for GMO crops, biofuels and gentleman's estates, while keeping us dependent on Costco, another way is possible — one backyard, one community garden, at a time.

Moving into a related land use issue, County Council candidate Gary Hooser had an interesting commentary in yesterday's paper about the metamorphosis of the bill that created the Public Land Development Corp. (PLDC), with its far-reaching powers to privatize the so-called “ceded lands” now held by the state.

It outlines so clearly the corruption in the state Legislature, which exempts itself from the Sunshine Law precisely so it can ram stuff like this through with minimal public input. The PLDC is the tumor that is representative of a much deeper cancer in our state government. Repealing Act 55 — the PLDC — is just one step. What we really need to do is cure the systemic illness.

So is that gonna happen? Well, some people are organizing, and speaking up, and Hawaiians, environmentalists and unions are finding common ground in this issue. Still, I cringe when I read a paragraph like this in an email regarding the “action plan” for coordinating the repeal of Act 55:

Once again, there is an attempt at a Great Land Grab, and once again our hosts, the Hawaiian People, who are least familiar with our distorted laws, corruptions and backroom deals, as well as our electronic communication/media, are likely to get ripped off. We cannot let this happen again. 

Umm, I think the kanaka maoli are probably more familiar with our distorted laws, corruptions, backroom deals and land grabs than any of us, seeing as how their entire nation was stolen. And really, can't we abandon that "poor ignorant natives" mentality?

I've also been amused to see politicians making big political hay. Foremost among them are former DLNR Director and state Senate candidate Laura Thielen, who has conveniently forgotten the Kokee hotel and park fees she and the Lingle Administration tried to force on us. And Councilman Mel Rapozo got his name circulating among progressives who normally would hold their noses, given his support for GMOs, opposition to solar hot water and coziness with Grove Farm, by telling them he might be able to convince the Hawaii State Assn. of Counties he chairs to support a repeal of Act 55 if he received a “few hundred emails."

Meanwhile, our state representatives, the ones who voted unanimously to support the PLDC, the ones who have shown themselves to be good little sheep, have absolutely no incentive to buck the Guv and leadership of their respective chambers because they're all assured of re-election, and not just this year, but probably for as long as they want to run.

And I am reminded again of how we the people can rail all we like against injustices and corruption, but aside from winning a pyrrhic victory here and there, nothing's really going to change until we upend the system that is designed to perpetuate the actions we find so repugnant. Personally, I'm tired of continually fighting over the rules that govern this insane asylum. It's time to free ourselves, and move beyond the walls that needlessly confine us. 

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Musings: Ho'okupu

Navy-blue canopy choke with constellations, navigational stars, planets — Jupiter overhead, Venus a wide arm's length from a grinning white-gold moon hovering above an orange-pink smudge in the east.

Down to the beach, moon and planets dimming, Waialeale adorned in a lei of wispy clouds. Embers glow on the horizon above a gray-blue sea that catches fire as a red ball rises into a pale sky, illuminating a throw-net fisherman creeping along the edge of the reef as boobies soar and dip, also seeking prey, and honey bees nuzzle nectar from heliotrope blossoms along the shore.

Heart fills, with love, gratitude, appreciation, and I offer it to the exquisite morning, the beautiful, troubled world.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Musings: Failed Fact Checks

Kauai County Councilman Mel Rapozo, Prosecutor Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho and her first deputy, Jake Delaplane,  failed fact checks this week.

Interestingly, all their false claims were attempts to discredit their arch enemy: County Attorney Al Castillo.

Shay told MidWeek Kauai:

But if you look at the amount of money that there has been allocated just in the past year for the county attorney’s special counsel because they have these conflicts, it has been almost $1.7 million in special counsel. …. So if you look at all the money that the County Attorney’s Office has expended, it’s humongous, it’s more than $1 million in a year on special counsel because of the conflict that it has with all of the department heads.
I checked, and the actual amount allocated for special counsel in the past year (9-11 to 9-12) was $619,680 — $85,000 of which was appropriated due to a conflict with the County Attorney's Office.
Mel, challenging Al at Wednesday's Council meeting, claimed the Charter Review Commission had approved a ballot amendment to clarify whether the Prosecutor's office could offer diversionary programs like POHAKU. But it reversed its vote upon advice from a deputy county attorney:
I sat in a Charter Review Commission meeting a while back. I was there for another matter. In fact, for the “shall vs may,” believe it or not. But prior to that coming up, there was discussion on whether or not to put that [Prosecutor's amendment] in the charter. The Charter Commission voted to support putting that on the ballot. I was at that meeting. I was there with my own ears. But I'm telling you that the record will reflect that at that meeting, they said hey, that make sense. So they voted and I believe it was unanimous and then when the thing came out, it's not on. This charter ballot question that was supposed to be on the ballot this year, that item was not on to add in diversionary programs. OK, so I talked to two commissioners that told me, 'we were advised that we didn't have to put it on because they already have the right to do that.' I don't know who the deputy was there. I'm thinking who advised the Charter Commission now to take it off the ballot when they voted to support it? That troubles me, because now we're hearing that they don't [have that authority]. And if they don't, then it should've been on ballot.
So maybe you do your research with your deputies to find out why that commission was told we didn't need that item. I'm asking you to to go find out. Because that's not right, Al. I'm beginning to see a pattern that I'm uncomfortable with. The other thing is, um, and I don't know if you guys are aware of this, probably not, because it didn't make the paper, but I was there when they called for the question. It just bothers me because now we're hearing they don't have that express authority.

We can request the minutes. I was there and I know what I heard."
I checked the Charter Review Commission minutes, which are all on-line. The item first came up in Oct. 24, 2011 and was deferred. The “shall vs. may” issue was on the March 19 meeting, but despite what Mel says, the Prosecutor's amendment was not discussed. At its May 21 meeting, the Commission did approve the Prosecutor's amendment, by a 5-0 vote, with no discussion.
At its July 23 meeting, the Commission voted to reject the amendment. But as the minutes show, the decision did not involve an opinion from the deputy county attorney:
Mr. Nishida said the items listed were programs and the Charter is not the place where you assign programs. The Charter does not have to include all programs because there would not be a bus system, there would not be an Office of Elderly Affairs, and there would not be a Housing Agency. The Charter establishes the Office of the Prosecuting Attorney but the programs should be within the administration and not listed in the Charter.
Mr. Justus thought this request was brought to the Charter Commission because the Prosecuting Office in Honolulu was sued. Honolulu was doing programs like our Prosecuting Office is doing now but the Court decided since it wasn’t specified in the Charter that the Prosecuting Attorney had the ability to do these programs they lost.

Attorney Winn said that was not correct. The case had to do with Peter Carlisle using public funds to promote information charging and the Courts said it was not within his purview to use public funds to do that.

Mr. Nishida said he specifically asked the Prosecutor’s Office what the relationship was between that case and the proposed amendment and they said there was no relationship; it was just that it was not in the Charter. These are programs and they should not be in the Charter because the Charter states what needs to be done in this office. The programs are a good idea but the Charter could restrict movement.

Ms. Barela agreed with Mr. Nishida.

Mr. Justus felt this would provide the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office with legal protection. Mr. Justus asked if this should be in the County Code instead of the Charter. Mr. Nishida and Ms. Barela both said it should be between agencies and/or grants. It should not be dictated in the Charter what should be there or may or may not be there. Mr. Justus wanted to know what the harm would be if it did not lock anything in; if it just provides padding.

Mr. Nishida moved to reject the amendment. Ms. Barela seconded the motion. Motion carried 4:0

Jake, meanwhile, told The Garden Island:
The commission, however, at their July meeting, voted to not place the amendment on the ballot because they were advised by the County Attorney’s Office that the OPA already had the authority to establish such programs under the charter, thus amending the charter for this purpose was unnecessary,” Delaplane said on an email Wednesday evening.
As I noted above, that's not the case.
So why do Mel, Shay and Jake lie about stuff that can so easily be proven via public records? Just because they want to make Al look bad?
To borrow Mel's words, “I'm beginning to see a pattern here, and it makes me uncomfortable.”