Race-hate allegation
lifts ante in assault

A prosecutor seeks an extended
prison term for a Big Isle rampage


Under Hawaii law, in order to sentence a hate-crime offender to an extended term, the court must find that the defendant intentionally selected a victim or property because of hostility toward the actual or perceived race, religion, disability, ethnicity, national origin, gender identity or expression, or sexual orientation.

KEALAKEKUA, Hawaii >> The Hawaii County prosecutor's office is seeking to charge a prime suspect in an alleged nighttime attack on campers in Kona under the state's hate-crime law.

Henry "Puka" Bell is one of 11 people charged with offenses related to allegedly attacking a group of up to 50 campers at Makalawena Beach, injuring at least three, on July 10.

The hate-crime charge would be a rare instance of use of the law, which technically involves doubling the sentence if the motivation for a separate crime was the victim's ethnicity, race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, gender or national origin.

One of the victims, Kai Dechape, previously told the Star-Bulletin that the attackers were "local" and that he heard one attacker say, "Any f---- haoles want to die?"

Police officer Dale Veloria testified yesterday that a victim at Makalawena Beach heard someone say during the attack, "We're going to f-- up you haoles."

Veloria quoted the racial comment during a preliminary hearing for Bell, who faces 12 charges, including assault, breaking into a motor vehicle, property damage and theft. Since the strongest charges could bring sentences of 10 years each, doubling would mean Bell would face 20 years in prison.

The purpose of the hearing was to allow Judge Colin Love to determine whether the prosecutor has enough evidence to support the proposed charges.

Bell's attorney, Robert Kim, objected that the charging document that proposes doubling of sentences failed to state which of the various reasons in the law for doubling would apply in Bell's case. "We need to know what we're being charged with," he said.

Deputy Prosecutor Cynthia Tai confirmed that the charges refer to the part of the law dealing with ethnicity. The judge overruled Kim's objection.

In further testimony, Veloria said he and other officers met a pickup truck leaving the four-wheel-drive trail to the beach. With guns drawn but not pointed at the suspects, the police ordered the occupants out of the truck and onto the ground.

Bell was in the next vehicle that came out, Veloria said. Bell said to the police, "F-- you; you've got to come get me." But police got him and others onto the ground, also, he said.

The third car out contained victims, including one who was bleeding from the face and head, had a swollen eye, had further cuts on his hands and feet, and was shaking, Veloria said.

Another victim said he needed help. "He just wanted to get out of there," Veloria said.

Veloria also referred to written statements made by three other suspects stating that they saw Bell commit various acts such as "busting up" a truck.

Attorney Kim objected to the testimony because it was hearsay from three defendants who will probably exercise their right not to testify during a trial, he said. The judge permitted the testimony.

Kim asked whether any of the three said they heard Bell make racial comments. Veloria said none had said so.

The judge recessed the hearing at the end of the day and set Aug. 27 to continue it.

In 2001 the Legislature amended a sentencing statute that allowed for extended terms of imprisonment for people convicted of crimes motivated by hate and bigotry. The hate-crime provision was amended last year to include protection for a person's actual or perceived gender identity.

There have been only a few cases, mostly on the neighbor islands, where defendants have been charged under the hate-crimes law, Honolulu prosecutors said.

Star-Bulletin reporter Debra Barayuga contributed to this report.


E-mail to City Desk


Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]
© 2004 Honolulu Star-Bulletin --