At the defendants' table yesterday were Robert Kupahu, left, Guy Meyers, attorney Michael Park, attorney Lance Takahashi and Manuel Kupahu Jr. Prosecutors say the Kupahus -- son and father -- and Meyers severely beat a man who interfered with Robert Kupahu's abuse of a dog in Waimanalo.

Witness to assault
recalls threats

Prosecutors say the defendants
resented a man's confrontation
over animal cruelty

Nicole Keaunui says an agitated young male confronted her and friends at Waimanalo Beach Park and asked: "Where's the f - - - ing haole?"

In Circuit Court yesterday, witness Keaunui recalled the man saying: "A f - - - ing haole is gonna die on this beach today!"

Keaunui identified Robert K. Kupahu, 28, as the man who uttered those words.

Kupahu went on trial yesterday along with his father, Manuel Kupahu Jr., 53, and cousin Guy Meyers, 40, for allegedly assaulting 51-year-old Edward Van Lier-Ribbink at the beach park in March, leaving him injured and bleeding on the ground.

All are charged with first-degree assault, which is punishable by a 10-year prison term.

Deputy Prosecutor Dan Oyasato said yesterday during opening statements that Van Lier-Ribbink was beaten because he "stuck his nose into Robert K. Kupahu's family's business, and as far as Robert was concerned, he had no business doing so."

Van Lier-Ribbink had apparently confronted Manuel Kupahu earlier on the beach after Van Lier-Ribbink and other beach-goers witnessed Kupahu beating his dog and holding its head down in the water, Oyasato said.

Manuel Kupahu also is charged with cruelty to animals.

A pushing match ensued, and the two scuffled in the sand, with Van Lier-Ribbink ending up straddling Kupahu. When the two finally got up, the dog appeared to be dead, Oyasato said.

Kupahu dragged his dog home across the street. Police later found the dog dead at the owner's home.

Van Lier-Ribbink sought assistance from lifeguards before deciding it was best he leave.

But before he and his wife could make it to their car, Van Lier-Ribbink was intercepted by at least four people, including the three defendants, and the assault began, Oyasato said.

They punched Van Lier-Ribbink while he lay in a fetal position on the ground, trying to ward off the blows, the prosecutor said, adding that they took running starts and kicked him in the midsection.

"Over and over they hit him," Oyasato said.

Van Lier-Ribbink sustained eight broken ribs and cuts to his face. He was choked from behind and suffered injuries to his neck.

Before the beating was over, Manuel Kupahu looked Van Lier-Ribbink in the eye and told him, "Remember my face," Oyasato said.

Van Lier-Ribbink, a senior vice-president, chief financial officer and treasurer of the Hawaii Medical Service Association, is expected to testify. The trial resumes tomorrow.

Robert Kupahu doesn't dispute he fought with Van Lier-Ribbink, but denies being the cause of the serious bodily injuries Van Lier-Ribbink sustained or being involved in any plan or agreement to attack him, said his attorney, Lane Takahashi.

Jeff Hawk, attorney for Kupahu Jr., said the evidence will show that his client never hit or kicked Van Lier-Ribbink. He said Kupahu did not intend to drown or torture his dog, but wanted to teach the dog a lesson for running away from him and chasing another dog at the park.

Meyers' attorney, Michael Park, doesn't dispute his client confronted Van Lier-Ribbink and struggled briefly with him, but denies inflicting serious bodily injury.

During Oyasato's version of what happened and the testimony of Keaunui, Robert Kupahu smiled broadly and occasionally shook his head.


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