3 plead guilty to Pali golf course murders
Another defendant admits hiring the others as security for his illegal casino
STORY SUMMARY »
One by one, four defendants paraded before a federal judge yesterday and pleaded guilty to complicity in a brazen daylight shooting spree in 2004 that killed two men and wounded a third at the Pali Golf Course in a war over security for a Young Street gambling house.
Ethan Motta of Hilo pleaded guilty to conspiracy to operate an illegal enterprise, murder and attempted murder. Kevin A. Gonsalves and Rodney Joseph Jr. pleaded guilty to racketeering and murder. The three were indicted together on murder charges in state court, but the case was dropped in favor of federal prosecution.
The fourth man, Kai Ming Wang, pleaded guilty to conspiring to operate an illegal enterprise but acknowledged hiring the three others to protect his Young Street gambling house.
Before U.S. District Judge Susan Oki Mollway, Gonsalves and Joseph admitted to murder in the shooting death of Romelius Corpuz Jr. on Jan. 7, 2004, in the Pali Golf Course parking lot.
Motta admitted to killing Lepo Taliese and to the attempted murder of Tinoimalu Sao. Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Brady said Taliese had four gunshot wounds in his back. Sau was shot in the face but survived.
The shootings occurred while golfers were on the course.
The shooters and their victims belonged to two separate groups that provided security for Wang's illegal gambling operation.
FULL STORY »
Three defendants charged with racketeering and murder in the January 2004 Pali Golf Course shootings pleaded guilty yesterday on the eve of their trial in federal court.
Kevin A. Gonsalves and Rodney Joseph Jr. pleaded guilty to racketeering and murder. Ethan Motta pleaded guilty to conspiracy to operate an illegal enterprise, murder and attempted murder.
And a fourth defendant, Kai Ming Wang, pleaded guilty to conspiring to operate an illegal enterprise, admitting he had hired the three men to protect his illegal Young Street gambling house.
Before U.S. District Judge Susan Oki Mollway, Gonsalves and Joseph admitted to shooting Romelius Corpuz Jr. to death on Jan. 7, 2004, in the Pali Golf Course parking lot.
Motta admitted to murder in the shooting death of Lepo Taliese and for the attempted murder of Tinoimalu Sao. Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Brady said Taliese had four gunshot wounds in his back. Sau was shot in the face but survived.
The shootings occurred during the daytime while golfers were on the course.
All the men involved in the shootings -- the shooters and their victims -- belonged to two separate groups that provided security for Wang's illegal gambling operation.
In court yesterday, all four defendants accepted plea agreements with the government.
Under Gonsalves', Joseph's and Motta's plea agreements, they could receive prison sentences up to 330 months or 27 1/2 years. The maximum prison sentence for conspiracy and racketeering is 20 years, and life in prison for murder.
For Wang's plea, Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Brady said, the government will not oppose his request to the court for a sentence below the federal advisory sentencing guidelines, given that he accepted responsibility for his actions and agreed to cooperate with the government.
Wang's lawyer, William Harrison, said that means his client is looking at a possible prison sentence of between two and three years. Wang has already been in custody for two years. And Harrison told Mollway that he plans to ask her to release Wang from custody pending his sentencing on May 27.
The victims were part of the first group to provide security for Wang, Brady said. But they were under constant attack from men who provided security for a rival illegal gambling operation, he said.
Robert Kaialau was in charge of the security of the rival gambling operation. Last November a federal jury found him guilty of a violent act in the aid of racketeering activity and three counts of using a deadly weapon.
It was after those attacks by Kaialau's operation that Wang hired Motta, Joseph and Gonsalves for additional security, the government said.
Motta said yesterday he advised Wang's original security group that the best defense against attack was to go on the offense. That offense included robbery and extortion. And they were eventually successful in shutting down the rival gambling operation, Brady said.
Sometime before the golf course shooting, Brady said, members of the original security group told Motta that his services as head of security were not needed anymore.
In pleading guilty to murder and attempted murder yesterday, Motta said he took the actions to maintain or further his position in the illegal enterprise.