U.S. prosecutors take state murder case
The Pali Golf Course shooting was for gang control of the islands, says the U.S. attorney
U.S. Attorney Ed Kubo said he sought federal murder charges against three men already scheduled to stand trial for murder in state court because their victims were killed allegedly as part of a plot to establish statewide control of organized crime.
"It's no longer control for the Leeward Coast. It's no longer control about Oahu. It's control for the entire state," Kubo said.
"This is the type of activity which concerns us, because this leads to gang wars or this leads to underworld shootings or drive-by shootings and things like that," he said.
A federal grand jury charged Rodney Joseph Jr., Kevin Gonsalves and Ethan Motta with murder and attempted murder Wednesday for a daytime shooting in the Pali Golf Course parking lot Jan. 7, 2004.
Lepo Taliese and Romelius Corpuz Jr. were killed in the shooting. Tinoimalu Sao survived a gunshot wound to the face.
Joseph, Gonsalves and Motta had already been charged with first-degree murder in state court, and are scheduled to go to trial in August. The state charge carries mandatory life prison terms without the opportunity for parole. The federal murder charge carries a possible death sentence or life imprisonment.
All three defendants are in state or federal custody. Motta made his initial federal court appearance yesterday. Joseph and Gonsalves are scheduled to appear in federal court next week.
The state trial does not prevent federal prosecutors from taking their case to court, but the state cannot prosecute defendants who have already been tried in federal court for the same act.
Honolulu City Prosecutor Peter Carlisle could not be reached for comment on whether he would continue to pursue the state's case against the three defendants.
Honolulu police said the shooting was the result of a turf war between rival groups that provide protection and security for illegal gambling operations, which Kubo said was an ongoing fight.
Last month, a federal grand jury charged Joseph, Gonsalves, Kai Ming Wang and Siaosi Alapati with operating an illegal gambling business, racketeering and committing violent crimes, including robbery and extortion, to aid the racketeering. The extortion and robbery targeted a rival illegal gambling operation in Pearl City in August and September 2003.
Wang started his illegal gambling enterprise in 1999 and hired the shooting victims for security and protection, Kubo said. But when his operation on Young Street was raided in July 2003 by men who provide security at the Pearl City gambling operation, "He sought out additional protection, and he eventually got hooked up with the Motta group," Kubo said.