2 suspects in Pali killings get bail
Concerns over due process rights prompt the judge’s decision
Two men who have yet to be tried for a double slaying at the Pali Golf Course two years ago have been granted bail and could be released soon.
Circuit Judge Michael Town granted $1 million bail each for Rodney Joseph Jr. and Kevin Gonsalves yesterday, citing concerns about their rights to due process and speedy trials.
"I don't do this lightly," Town said, but he added, "We need to get this case in a situation where we can try it sooner than later."
The men could be released as soon as conditions that meet the court's approval are worked out.
But deputy prosecutor Lucianne Khalaf, who objected to the change in the men's bail status, said she likely will file a writ asking the Hawaii Supreme Court for an order to keep Joseph and Gonsalves detained until trial.
The case, which was initially set for trial last January, has been postponed indefinitely after the state appealed to the Hawaii Supreme Court Town's October 2004 decision to suppress statements Joseph gave to police about his alleged involvement in the shooting.
The high court has indicated that it will not hear oral arguments in the case, but gave no indication of how long it will take to decide the matter.
Joseph, 35, Gonsalves, 33, and a third defendant, Ethan Motta, 34, face multiple charges of first-degree murder in the Jan. 7, 2004, shooting that killed Lepo Taliese, 44, and Romelius Corpuz, 40. Also wounded in the daylight attack was Corpuz's brother Tino Sao, 42, who is expected to testify.
Police said the shooting stemmed from a dispute between factions vying to provide security at gambling houses. Each defendant is allegedly blaming the other two for the fatal shots.
Town had denied bail previously -- four times for Joseph and three times for Gonsalves. The court had ruled in Joseph's case that he was presumed dangerous based on prior criminal convictions. Gonsalves, who was captured nearly two weeks after the shooting, was deemed a flight risk. He was found hiding under a bed at a Nanakuli home with weapons and a Kevlar vest.
Joseph's attorney, Reginald Minn, argued yesterday that Joseph has a willing sponsor who will monitor and report any violations of his release. Minn proposed conditions such as home detention and electronic monitoring if his client is released.
Gonsalves' attorney, Clifford Hunt, argued that his client is presumed innocent but has spent 716 days in pretrial confinement "and hasn't had his day in court yet."
He said Gonsalves had no legal duty to turn himself in to police until he was indicted on Jan. 14, 2004, and prior to that was laying low because he also was sought by associates of the victims and organized-crime figures allegedly looking to silence him about the shootings.
Gonsalves' uncle on the Big Island, a retired police officer, also has agreed to sponsor him and report any violations, Hunt said.
Khalaf and letters from the Department of Public Safety's intake service center opposed Joseph's and Gonsalves' release, arguing that no conditions have changed to justify bail, other than the passage of time.
They recommended that Joseph's and Gonsalves' bail status remain unchanged because of the seriousness of the alleged offenses and concerns for the community's safety.
Motta, a cousin of Joseph who lives on the Big Island and has no significant criminal history, was granted $1 million bail early on but is being monitored electronically, has a curfew and cannot use a cell phone.