Prosecutors say assault on duo not a hate crime
The brutal attack was unrelated to race, says official, despite epithet
The savage beating of a military couple after a fender-bender at Waikele Center was not a hate crime, even though one of the alleged perpetrators used a racial epithet, says the city Prosecutor's Office.
"In this particular case, the accident is what precipitated the violence," Jim Fulton of the Honolulu Prosecutor's Office said yesterday.
The victims, a 26-year-old Army soldier who served two tours in Iraq, and his 23-year-old wife, a nursing student at Hawaii Pacific University, are physically doing better than expected, Fulton said. Both were treated and released from the hospital. A special fund will be opened for the family Monday.
The alleged beating started Monday afternoon after the couple's sport utility vehicle pulled into a parking spot and hit a parked vehicle, police said. A 16-year-old boy got out of the car that was hit and allegedly called the SUV driver a "f--ing haole" before attacking him, according to police and witnesses.
The woman in the SUV tried to the stop the teen, and his mother then allegedly fought with her, according to police. Gerald Paakaula, the teen's father, emerged from an ice cream shop and allegedly punched the woman unconscious, and he and his son beat and stomped the SUV driver, according to police.
Officers arrested Paakaula, 44, and charged him with second-degree assault. He made his initial court appearance Wednesday and was released from custody after posting $20,000 bail. He is scheduled to go back to court March 15 for a preliminary hearing.
Police also arrested Paakaula's 16-year-old son and turned him over to Family Court. According to police, the two women filed complaints against each other, but prosecutors declined to pursue the cases.
According to state law, a hate crime "means any criminal act in which the perpetrator intentionally selected a victim, or in the case of a property crime, the property that was the object of a crime, because of hostility toward the actual or perceived race, religion, disability, ethnicity, national origin, gender identity or expression, or sexual orientation of any person."
Even if prosecutors sought to have the assault deemed a hate crime, its only effect would be at sentencing where they would ask the judge to impose a sentence longer than the ordinary prison term. Second-degree assault is a Class C felony punishable by up to five years in prison.
There is no separate hate crime offense in Hawaii law.
Paakaula and his son are no strangers to violence, according to court records.
Police arrested the elder Paakaula at his Waianae home Aug. 8, 2002, for beating his then 11-year-old son. The boy's mother had taken their son to Kaiser Hospital's emergency room the previous evening for injuries he suffered in the beating, according to the police report.
The mother told police her husband beat their son because an official from the boy's school called to report the boy had misbehaved in school, the report said.
The boy's mother told police her husband beat her son for 15 minutes, first with a belt and then with his fists. She said he stopped only after she called her husband's father to intervene, according to the police report.
The boy told police the beating was a blur because he was being punched in the face. He suffered bruises and swelling to his face, both arms, his legs and his back, the police report said. None of the injuries was serious, and he was treated and released, according to the report.
Paakaula pleaded guilty to abuse of a family member, a misdemeanor, Aug. 26, 2002, and was sentenced to 14 days in prison, to be served on seven consecutive weekends, and two years' probation. On May 27, 2003, Paakaula requested and was granted early release from probation.