Akahi avoids a conviction for burglary


POSTED: Saturday, August 01, 2009

A Circuit Court jury found self-proclaimed heir to the Hawaiian throne James Akahi guilty of a simple trespass violation yesterday instead of a felony burglary charge for breaking into Iolani Palace on Admission Day last year.

Simple trespass is not a crime, but is punishable by a fine of up to $1,000. Akahi was charged with second-degree burglary, which is a Class C felony punishable by up to five years in prison.

Circuit Judge Richard Pollack imposed the maximum fine and admonished Akahi.

“;You went into a place that is sacred to hundreds of thousands of people. You went there for your own benefit, your own wishes, to satisfy what you felt was right,”; Pollack said. “;You took nobody else's beliefs or opinions about what they felt about this place.”;

Deputy Attorney General Mark Miyahira said Akahi risked damaging the palace and its contents.

Aikahi said he did not intend to offend anybody.

“;I'm trying to help our people, my kanaka maoli people, to put them back on their own land. That's why I'm here,”; Akahi said.

His lawyer David Sereno said Akahi entered the palace to sit on the throne to make a statement. He said Akahi is pleased the jury did not find him guilty of burglary. But he said Akahi is not pleased the jury found him guilty of trespass “;because he believes he is the king and he has the lineage, as he said in court. And so he's hoping that one day people will realize after he can prove it that this was, in fact, not even a trespass,”; Sereno said.

The state had charged Akahi and six of his followers, including his wife, with second-degree burglary for breaking into Iolani Palace Aug. 15 last year.

Pollack dismissed the charge against the other six defendants. The state is appealing. Two others are awaiting trial for allegedly assaulting a palace employee.

According to state law, someone commits second-degree burglary by unlawfully entering or remaining in a building to commit another crime.

Miyahira told jurors the other crime was either the taking of historic property, a misdemeanor, or fourth-degree criminal property damage, a petty misdemeanor.

An investigator for the attorney general's office testified he heard Akahi say he intended to chain himself to the throne, but did not because he got lost in the palace. The investigator also said he saw a chain inside a knapsack in the palace, which Akahi and his followers had entered, but could not find it when he went to retrieve it.

The prosecutor did not show the jurors a bag or chain, and the investigator said he did not mention them in his report because he did not think they were significant.

“;I know it was a hard case for the jury,”; Miyahira said.

Miyahira took one day to present the state's case, and jurors deliberated just less than a day before reaching their verdict.