Friday, January 9, 2004


Lepo Taliese, released from prison in 1995 after his sentence of life without parole was commuted, enjoyed his time with his daughter, Selena.

Gunshot victim
‘had paid his dues’

Lepo Taliese, killed at a golf
course, did time for murder
but also impressed employers

Friends of one of the slain victims of Wednesday's Pali Golf Course shooting remember Lepo Taliese as "a good guy who had paid his dues."

Taliese, formerly known as Lepo Utu, had been released from prison in 1995 after his sentence of life without parole was commuted.

In 1980, Taliese was sentenced to a life term without parole after he and four other inmates were convicted of first-degree murder for killing a fellow inmate in 1980.

Gov. John Waihee reduced his sentence to life with parole in November 1994, and he was released six months later.

His attorney, Chester Kanai, said in an interview in 2000 that the evidence showed that Taliese was not in the area when fellow inmate Milton Nihipali was beaten to death.

"It wasn't a question of they were guilty and 'Please grant us clemency or mercy,'" Kanai said. "It was, 'We've got to do something because they're not guilty.'"

However, Deputy Prosecutor Kevin Takata said he was not thoroughly convinced Taliese was not involved in the death.

After his release, Taliese, 44, continued to have problems with drugs and alcohol. He returned to prison for parole violations and was released again in November 1996.

Taliese entered a residential drug treatment program, and in a Nov. 22, 2000, Star-Bulletin interview, he credited Rags Scanlan, president of Royal Guard Security, for giving him his first real job.

Scanlan said yesterday that he had not kept in touch with Taliese, but had occasionally bumped into him.

"He was a good guy," Scanlan said. "He paid his dues. He was pardoned by the governor. He was always for the underdog because he had been an underdog.

"He was just a nice guy who made bad choices, and we tried to give him a break."

While with Royal Guard, Taliese had been assigned to a site known for its gang problems. Scanlan felt that Taliese's background and sincerity would help him with the kids.

After leaving Scanlan's company, Taliese went to work for Fresh Start, a residential drug and alcohol abuse program, but in April 1999 he was accused of stealing a planner from the Diamond Head home where MTV's "Real World" was filmed. He resigned from the program and was convicted of first-degree burglary. A judge overturned the conviction.

In June 1999, Taliese took custody of his infant daughter, Selena, who was born while her mother was serving a term for violating parole.

Taliese said that his daughter gave him a new purpose in life.

A year later, Taliese went to work for Tradewind Taxi & Tours.

Bob Naauo, Tradewind's owner, told the Star-Bulletin yesterday that he has never regretted giving Taliese a job. Naauo said he was "shocked" when he was told by friends Wednesday that Taliese had such a violent death.

"He was so good that I made him a supervisor, overseeing drivers at three locations," Naauo said.

He was assigned to oversee the taxis serving the Nimitz and Kakaako areas since "they were pretty rough districts, and he knew how to handle those situations," Naauo said.

Taliese worked for Naauo for nearly two years.

"I only know good things about him," said Naauo, who last saw Taliese eight months ago. "He had proved himself to me. Everybody needs a second chance. ... He's an honorable guy. I have no regrets at all. He proved to me that he had changed. People do change. People need a second chance, and I gave him the second chance."


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