4 change plea in killing of surfer
Pleading guilty to a lesser charge should bring shorter jail time
SAN DIEGO » Four of five men originally charged with murdering professional surfer and former Kauai resident Emery Kauanui, Jr., pleaded guilty to lesser charges today.
Emery Kauanui, Jr.|
Five men had faced life terms in the pro surfer's slaying
The men had faced up to life in prison if convicted of murder in the beating death of the 24-year-old Hawaiian surfer outside his mother's home in the affluent La Jolla neighborhood after a fight at a bar last year.
Eric House, 21, Orlando Osuna, 23, and Matthew Yanke, 21, pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and misdemeanor battery. Henri "Hank" Hendricks, 22, pleaded guilty to a felony of being an accessory to the death.
Remaining defendant Seth Cravens, 22, alleged to be the ringleader, re-entered a not-guilty plea after his attorney rejected a plea offer from prosecutors.
Prosecutors initially alleged the men were part of a gang, but a judge found in May that they could not be prosecuted under gang statutes.
Kauanui's death rattled staid La Jolla, where parking squabbles are common but violence is rare.
Nicknamed the "Flying Hawaiian," Kauanui was a fixture at Windansea Beach, a few blocks from his house, where his favorite surf break is now called "Emery's Left."
On May 23, 2007, Kauanui and his girlfriend went to a promotional surf-company event at a local pub. According to a police affidavit, Cravens and his four co-defendants wound up at the same bar because it had a lax identification-checking policy and the youngest of them, Eric House, was still shy of 21.
At around 1 a.m., Kauanui and House got into an argument that ended with House doused in beer. Kauanui went home in his girlfriend's car after security ejected him from the bar, but the pair continued trading threats by phone.
Within minutes Cravens, House, Osuna, Yanke and Hendricks, a backup quarterback at the University of New Hampshire home on spring break — drove up to the home, across the street from a church.
Witnesses told investigators that Kauanui charged out of his house, whipping his shirt off. House lost a tooth in the scuffle, but Kauanui wound up lying in a pool of his own blood after a "sucker punch" — allegedly from Cravens — sent him crashing to the pavement. Kauanui was hospitalized with severe head trauma and died three days later after being taken off life support.
Prosecutors claimed the attack was the latest in a string of assaults allegedly perpetrated by the five defendants and charged them with membership in a loose-knit, hard-partying group known as the "Bird Rock Bandits," after an area at La Jolla's south end.
Superior Court Judge John S. Einhorn determined that the group did not qualify as a gang because it wasn't formed specifically to commit crimes.