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StarBulletin.com

Fatal beating tied to honor


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POSTED: Saturday, April 18, 2009

The only reason former Kaimuki High School all-star lineman Ulutunu Faumuina Jr. beat a man five years ago was because the victim had urinated on his truck.

But, his attorney said yesterday, Faumuina had considered it more than just a truck—it was a memorial to his father, who had died trying to save family members who perished in a Palolo house fire in October 1997.

Faumuina is “;a nonviolent, big, strong person and not a guy who looks for trouble,”; said his attorney, Howard Luke, and he confronted Mikiala “;Keola”; Kahalewai only because Kahalewai had urinated on the truck, which bore a special license plate, “;4ULU,”; encased in a frame that said “;With Aloha.”;

In his opening statement in a murder trial in Circuit Court, Luke explained that Ulutunu Faumuina Sr. died attempting to save his family when their single-wall wooden Palolo home was destroyed by an early morning fire on Oct. 15, 1997. Seven members of the Faumuina family perished. Only the younger Ulu Faumuina and his mother survived.

Faumuina, 28, and John Wilfred Penitani, 29, are charged with beating Kahalewai outside the Pachinko Karaoke Bar on Kona Street on April 19, 2004. Both are charged with second-degree murder and face life imprisonment with the possibility of parole, if convicted.

In 1999 the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission honored the elder Faumuina, who had re-entered the burning building to help other members of his family. The elder Faumuina was found in the daughter's bedroom, cradling one of his granddaughters.

In 2003, Elaine Faumuina and Ulu Jr. won a settlement from the city because firefighters were diverted from the Faumuina fire to respond to another medical emergency, and a fire hydrant near the Palolo home failed to work.

Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Kory Young, in his opening statement, said Kahalewai had problems with alcohol and anger.

But, he added, there was nothing to justify being stomped and kicked in the head and face while he lay on the sidewalk shortly after 1 a.m. nearly five years ago.

Young said that Kahalewai was “;kicked so hard that it rattled his brains.”; There also were bruise marks on Kahalewai's face that bore the imprint of a large Nike Air Force 1 sneaker similar in size to ones worn by Faumuina.

Kory said witnesses will testify that they saw Penitani strip Kahalewai of his pants and T-shirt, leaving the victim lying on the Kona Street sidewalk dressed only in boxers and socks.

Teri Marshall, Penitani's public defender, said her client never kicked or stomped or laid a hand on Kahalewai. She described Penitani's actions of stripping Kahalewai of trousers and shirt as her client's “;crude message”; because he had desecrated Faumuina's memorial.

Charles Montgomery, who works as a security guard at a neighboring building, testified that he saw at least three people, one whom he identified as Faumuina, taking part in the beating and a fourth pulling the victim's legs.