Wednesday, December 1, 1999

Molokai Ranch pipeline
case goes to jury

By Gary T. Kubota


WAILUKU -- Defense attorneys charged the county prosecutor was trying to convict their clients of criminal property damage against Molokai Ranch through their association with Molokai activists.

"This is a case about guilt by association," attorney Susan Arnett told a Maui Circuit jury at the close of the trial yesterday.

"This is a case about the state quieting people who speak up."

The jury is expected to begin deliberation today in the trial of Clarence H. Kaopuiki and Michael D. Perreira.

Kaopuiki, 43, and Perreira, 46, are accused of damaging five miles of ranch pipeline in 1996.

Kaopuiki is also charged with burning Kiewit Pacific Construction trailers in 1994 and a ranch beach house in 1995.

Arnett said Deputy Prosecutor Kevin Jenkins has made a point of trying to link the two men to Molokai activist Walter Ritte, who has been critical of ranch policies, and groups known as "Pono" and "Ahupuaa O Kaluako."

Ritte was found not guilty last year of destroying the pipeline. The same jury was unable to arrive at a verdict about whether Ritte burned the beach cottage.

Arnett said a person protesting a ranch development isn't necessarily going to commit a criminal act. "The government wants you to confuse commitment and passion with anger," Arnett said.

Arnett and defense attorney Vickie Russell criticized the testimony of prosecution witness Glen Len Wai who said Kaopuiki told him he was involved in burning the beach house and destroying the pipeline.

Arnett said according to Len Wai, others heard Kaopuiki admit to vandalizing the pipeline

She said none of the others who were present testified they heard Kaopuiki talk about destroying anything.

Russell noted that Len Wai stood to receive reward money in the pipeline incident and has obtained a job and been promoted at the ranch.

Russell said her client Perreira was on Kauai at the time when prosecutors alleged he was on Molokai destroying the pipeline.

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