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Killings sent a message, informant says


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POSTED: Saturday, March 07, 2009

Accused killer Ethan Motta said you have to kill somebody to send a message about control of gambling operations on Oahu, an FBI informant testified in federal court yesterday.

; Motta and his cousin Rodney Joseph Jr. are on trial for racketeering and for murder and attempted murder in connection with the Jan. 7, 2004, shootings at Pali Golf Course. The government said the shootings, which killed Romelius Corpuz Jr. and Lepo Taliese and critically injured Tinoimalu Sau, were the result of a violent struggle among competing factions for control of illegal gambling operations on Oahu.

The informant is Jonnaven Monalim, cousin to both Motta and Joseph. On Oct. 30, 2004, he secretly recorded a conversation with Motta on the Big Island while Motta was free on $1 million bail when the state was prosecuting the murder case.

On the recording, Motta says you have to “;put blood on the table,”; to send a message. Monalim says that phrase means to kill somebody and that Motta wanted to send a message to people he thought were stepping on his toes.

Monalim said the portions of the conversation in which Motta told him that he was organizing gambling on Oahu and that he would be bigger than Charlie Stevens are not on the tape because background noise, including rustling sounds, drowned out the conversation. He said Motta also whispered when he mentioned names or talked about the shooting.

When Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Brady asked Monalim why Motta would talk to him about gambling, Monalim said, “;Because we cousins, and he thought he could trust me.”;

Monalim said he also told the FBI that he thought Motta would turn over control of the gambling operations to him.

Monalim said he started cooperating with the FBI after agents raided his home in February 2004 and told him they had information that he had conspired to distribute drugs. He said he introduced a drug source to a contact in Hawaii to distribute methamphetamine.

Monalim has yet to face federal charges even though he has no deal with the government. He says he continues to cooperate with the FBI in the hopes of staying out of prison.

He said he was in prison from 1998 to 2001. He was sentenced in state court to 10 years in prison for second-degree assault, first-degree burglary and first-degree terroristic threatening. One of his co-defendants in the burglary and threatening case is Joseph. Monalim also is awaiting trial for allegedly violating a restraining order for harassment.