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Saturday, August 21, 2004



Motta under house arrest
after breaking curfew

The murder suspect was in an
altercation while out on bail


A state judge has ordered murder suspect Ethan Motta under 30 days' house arrest after finding he violated terms of his supervised release.

Circuit Judge Michael Town found that Motta, 34, of Keaukaha on the Big Island, broke curfew when he remained at a wedding reception past 9 p.m. and that he was involved in a confrontation with a man at the reception.

"I'm appalled Mr. Motta would break his rules of bail," Town said Thursday.

Motta is one of three co-defendants awaiting trial in the Jan. 7 double murder at the Pali Golf Course and the only one accorded bail. Rodney Joseph Jr., 35, and Kevin Gonsalves, 33, remain in custody without bail.

On Thursday, deputy prosecutor Lucianne Khalaf asked the court to set aside bail for Motta not only because he violated terms of his release, but because of his dangerousness and the influence he allegedly wields in his community.

At least nine people who were present at the reception submitted affidavits in which they swore under oath that Motta was not present during and after a confrontation with William Clifford, who was accused of crashing the reception and was later attacked by a mob of angry guests.

But in court a witness testified that he saw Motta head-butt Clifford as Clifford sat in his Cadillac Escalade preparing to leave.

Also, in a tape-recorded conversation with Clifford, Motta does not deny the incident, but explains he did so because Clifford apparently had struck another guest, Khalaf said.

Defense attorney Todd Eddins characterized Motta's actions as those of a peacemaker. He also acknowledged Motta should not have been out late, but a one-time violation of curfew for a couple of hours was not sufficient basis to revoke his bail, Eddins said.

Although Town denied the prosecutor's request, he shared her concerns that the Big Island community's loyalty and desire to protect Motta have compelled them to do things improperly.

And while he could not conclude whether Motta had assaulted Clifford, "I do know he was out past 9 and got involved in an incident he could have chosen not to get into," Town said.

Town said he was willing to hear requests in 30 days to allow Motta back into the community, but only to work.

Besides house arrest, Motta was also ordered to give up his cell phone.

The trial was scheduled to begin Oct. 18 but was continued to Jan. 3 to accommodate the defense attorneys' trial schedules and give them more time to prepare.

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