Saturday, November 27, 2004

Evicted protester is
found not guilty

His reaction to what he thought were
"assassins" was justified, a jury says

HILO » A jury has found former Hawaiian Homes beneficiary Norman Macomber Sr. not guilty of threatening four state law enforcement agents when they evicted him from his Hilo home last year.

Macomber, 62, said he acted in self-defense, believing 16 agents who entered his home, some wearing masks, were "assassins." Macomber slammed a piece of pipe on a table and was arrested. He was acquitted of four counts of first-degree terroristic threatening.

One of the agents testified that he intended to shoot Macomber but did not because he was afraid of hitting other agents.

Patricia Tummons, a juror in the case, said the jury believed Macomber had good reason to be afraid.

Jurors were "incredulous" at the way the state "flexed its muscles" in the case, but jurors were rigorous in applying the law and acquitting Macomber, Tummons said.

Macomber was one of six people who peacefully protested Hawaiian Homes policies since 1993, said the leader of the group, Patrick Kahawaiolaa. They believe the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act passed by Congress in 1920 promises beneficiaries free water, exemption from certain taxes and a fixed interest on home loans of 2.5 percent.

When the protesters stopped paying their water bills and mortgage payments, the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands arranged for state agents to evict them on Feb. 12, 2003.

Macomber testified he came home at about 9:30 a.m. and found the agents in his house. They did not show him any paperwork until after they arrested him.

"What were they doing in his house?" Tummons asked. They could have simply nailed the papers to his door, she said.

Testimony indicated a military C-130 airplane was used to fly the agents from Honolulu to Hilo, Tummons said.

Kahawaiolaa said he was among five of the six protesters arrested that day, but only Macomber was charged. All six lost their homes, and their possessions in the homes were seized and sold at auction, with none of the money returned to them, Kahawaiolaa said.

Kahawaiolaa had not been paying his mortgage, but Macomber confirmed he made payments up to 1998, when Hawaiian Homes began refusing to accept his payments.

Department spokesman Lloyd Yonenaka said he does not know why the department refused Macomber's payments. But, in general, the department usually refuses a mortgage payment because a beneficiary's lease has been revoked.

Yonenaka said the protesters took other actions, such as pouring cement on their county water meters and running pipes past the meters.



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