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2 men are convicted in golf course deaths


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POSTED: Saturday, March 21, 2009

As a court clerk read the guilty counts against Rodney Joseph Jr., he stood motionless in a peach polo shirt, gripping the edge of the table.


"[Preview]"    Pali Golf Course Defendants Ruled Guilty
    "[Preview]"
 

Ethan Motta and Rodney Joseph Jr.  found guilty of racketeering and murder for the 2004 double killing at the Pali Golf Course.

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"In

Ethan Motta, wearing a brown turtleneck sweater, folded his hands and lowered his head. As his verdict was read, he shook his head and wiped his left eyebrow.

A federal jury found both men guilty of all counts in the brazen Pali Golf Course shootings on Jan. 7, 2004, which left two men dead. Another man was critically wounded. They were also found guilty of operating an illegal gambling enterprise and racketeering.

They face mandatory minimum life prison terms for the murders when they are sentenced in July. There is no parole in the federal system.

Prosecutors said Motta, of Hilo, and Joseph, of Waianae, were part of a violent struggle for control of gambling operations on Oahu.

"I hope the verdicts bring closure to the families of (murder victims) Lepo Taliese and Romelius Corpuz Jr. and some closure to (attempted murder victim) Tinoimalu Sao," said Florence Nakakuni, assistant U.S. attorney.

"I also hope this sends a message to organized crime that they cannot remain below the radar. They are not above the law," Nakakuni said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Brady prosecuted the case. He was off island when the jurors returned their verdicts but was present by teleconference.

Joseph's lawyer, Reginald Minn, declined comment.

Walter Rodby, one of Motta's lawyers, said he was disappointed with the verdicts.

"We're going to appeal," he said.

Rodby said the defense objected to the jury instructions because they allowed the jurors to find Motta and Joseph guilty of racketeering if they found them to be associated with, not necessarily participating in, an illegal enterprise.

When U.S. marshals led them out of the courtroom, Joseph and Motta were visibly dejected. Joseph's face was flushed. Motta's eyes were red. He looked down and his normal smile was gone.

"My head is just going into a spin," Elizabeth Motta, the defendant's mother, said after the decision. "When you're dealing with the federal government, it's hard to beat them. It's so sad that he's innocent. He's innocent."

"I'm so glad it's over," said Faletolu Lauti, Taliese's sister. "My brother can rest in peace."

Lauti said she talked to Joseph's wife after the verdicts and sympathizes with her. But, she said, "They cannot go on to kill somebody. Just because he's not a good citizen, they cannot kill anybody."

A former co-defendant, Kevin A. Gonsalves, pleaded guilty last year and is serving a 330-month prison term.

Joseph and Motta attempted to plead guilty last year and would have been sentenced to 27 1/2 years in prison, but U.S. Judge Susan Oki Mollway rejected the plea agreement.

According to evidence and testimony the government presented during the trial, all of the men involved in the case, victims and assailants, were involved in illegal activity.

Taliese was found guilty for murdering a fellow prison inmate in 1982 but was released on parole after Gov. John Waihee commuted his prison sentence in 1994 to life with the possibility for parole from life without parole.

 

               

     

 

Convicted on all counts

       

Rodney Joseph Jr.

        » Murder of Lepo Taliese in aid of racketeering

        » Murder of Romelius Corpuz Jr. in aid of racketeering

        » Attempted murder of Tinoimalu Sao in aid of racketeering

        » Assault with a deadly weapon in aid of racketeering

        » Operating an illegal gambling business

        » Racketeering

        » Racketeering conspiracy

       

Ethan Motta

        » Murder of Lepo Taliese in aid of racketeering

        » Murder of Romelius Corpuz Jr. in aid of racketeering

        » Attempted murder of Tinoimalu Sao in aid of racketeering

        » Operating an illegal gambling business

        » Racketeering

        » Racketeering conspiracy