American Justice Notebook

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Maui Men Convicted of Hate Crimes for Beating White Man, Each Facing Up to 10 Years in Prison

HAWAII

After a two-week jury trial, a federal jury in Honolulu, Hawaii, found defendants Kaulana Alo-Kaonohi, 32, and Levi Aki Jr., 33, guilty of a hate crime for their racially motivated attacks on C.K., a white man, officials announced Tuesday.

The victim attempted to move into their Native Hawaiian neighborhood of Kahakuloa on Maui.

Sentencing is set for March 2, 2023.

Each man faces up to 10 years in prison, according to authorities.

The FBI Honolulu Field Office conducted the investigation.

The FBI investigation comes nearly seven years after the state pursued its own drawn-out case against Levi Aki Jr., 32, and Kaulana Alo Kaonohi, 31, both Native Hawaiians from the Valley Isle, according to the Honolulu Civil Beat.

The Civil Beat reported that state did not bring hate crime charges against the defendants, focusing instead on assault allegations that ended with plea agreements in 2019.

“This verdict brings justice and vindication to the victim, a man who was assaulted and nearly killed simply based on the color of his skin,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.

“The defendants, in this case, committed a gruesome attack on the victim because of his race,” said Assistant Director Luis Quesada of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division. 

The evidence indicated the following:

 C.K., purchased a house in Kahakuloa and decided to move there with his wife and three daughters after his wife was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and forced to retire.

When C.K. arrived in Kahakuloa, he was harassed and threatened by various Kahakuloa residents who told him things like, “This is a Hawaiian village.  The only thing coming from the outside is the electricity,” and “You don’t even belong in Hawaii.” 

Assault Victim Only Identified as C.K. by Federal Prosecutors
Assault Victim Only Identified as C.K. by Federal Prosecutors

On Feb. 13, 2014, when C.K. was unpacking his belongings with his elderly uncle, the defendants, who had never met C.K. before, stormed onto his property and demanded that he pack his things and leave, threatening to “tie [him] up and drag [him]” and make him “go missing” if he did not comply. 

When C.K. replied that he owned the house, defendant Alo-Kaonohi dragged his index finger along C.K.’s jaw and told him, “Your skin is the wrong f****** color.” Defendant Aki then picked up a roofing shovel and handed it to defendant Alo-Kaonohi, who struck C.K. in the head, opening up a bloody wound on the back of C.K.’s head.

Later on, after C.K. had already begun packing up his possessions, the defendants attacked him a second time.

During that attack, defendant Aki head-butted C.K. and struck him in the face with the shovel a second time, giving C.K. a concussion and causing him to lose consciousness.

When he came to, the defendants were kicking him in the side—kicks that broke two of his ribs.

During the second attack, one of the defendants said, “no white man is ever going to live here.”

“The jury’s verdict confirms that the rule of law serves to protect all persons in our community from vicious assaults, no matter the color of their skin,” said United States Attorney Clare E. Connors for the District of Hawaii. “When people commit violent crimes against someone out of hatred for the victim’s race, the Department of Justice will ensure they face criminal consequences in a court of law.”

“The FBI is committed in protecting individuals from being harmed based on their race,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Steven Merrill of the FBI Honolulu Field Office. “This case highlights our work to ensure everyone feels safe in their own community without any fear of retribution or violence regardless of their race.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Chris Thomas for the District of Hawaii prosecuted the case.

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