Two Maui Men Found Guilty of Hate Crimes for Racially Motivated Attack
News Release from U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Hawaii, Thursday, November 17, 2022
HONOLULU – After a two-week jury trial before United States District Judge J. Michael Seabright, a federal jury today found Defendants Kaulana Alo-Kaonohi (age 32) and Levi Aki, Jr. (age 33) each guilty of a hate crime for their racially motivated attacks on C.K., a white man, when he attempted to move into the home he had purchased in their neighborhood of Kahakuloa on Maui. Judge Seabright ordered both defendants detained in custody pending their sentencing, which is set for March 2, 2023.
At trial, the evidence showed that 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.” On February 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, “You’ve got the wrong f****** color skin.” Defendant Aki then picked up a roofing shovel and handed it to Defendant Alo-Kaonohi, who struck C.K. in the head with it, causing 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.” Although the victim had recorded the attacks using his phone, the Defendants took it from him after he lost consciousness. Cameras on the victim’s car, however, captured critical evidence that corroborated C.K.’s account.
“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. “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. “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. The FBI encourages the public to support law enforcement’s efforts to end hate crimes by contacting the FBI at tips.fbi.gov or by calling 1-800-CALL-FBI.”
The charge on which they were convicted carries a maximum sentence of ten years of imprisonment. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
This conviction is the result of an investigation conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Chris A. Thomas prosecuted the case in partnership with Special Litigation Counsel Christopher J. Perras and Trial Attorney Tara Allison of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.
Federal Court jury finds two Hawaiian men guilty of a hate crime for the 2014 beating of a white man
AP: … A FEDERAL COURT jury on Thursday found two Native Hawaiian men guilty of a hate crime for the 2014 beating of a white man who was fixing up a house he purchased in their remote Maui neighborhood.
U.S. District Judge J. Michael Seabright ordered Kaulana Alo-Kaonohi and Levi Aki Jr. detained pending FEDERAL COURT sentencing scheduled for March 2, and marshals moved to handcuff the two men after the verdict was announced in the afternoon.
Family members and supporters wept in the courtroom and called out to the men: “I love you,” and “Be good.” “God bless you daddy,” said Alo-Kaonohi’s son Kahue, 3.
In an unusual move, the U.S. Department of Justice sought to prosecute Alo-Kaonohi and Aki and secured a federal grand jury indictment in December 2020 charging each with a hate crime count punishable by up to 10 YEARS in prison.
Prosecutors alleged during the trial in U.S. District Court in Honolulu that Alo-Kaonohi and Aki were motivated by Christopher Kunzelman’s race when they punched, kicked and used a shovel to beat him in Kahakuloa village. Kunzelman was left with injuries including a concussion, two broken ribs and head and abdominal trauma, prosecutors said.
Alo-Kaonohi previously pleaded no contest to felony assault IN STATE COURT and was sentenced to PROBATION, while Aki pleaded no contest to terroristic threatening and was sentenced to probation and nearly 200 days in jail. The federal trial was held separately, to determine if they were guilty of a hate crime. It’s unclear why it took so long for U.S. prosecutors to pursue hate crime charges….
Local attorneys say they’ve never heard of the federal government prosecuting Native Hawaiians for hate crimes before this case….
Kunzelman and his family never got to live in the home, he testified. They now reside in Puerto Rico….
read … Guilty
KHON: “In my 20 years of experience in the criminal justice system, both as a deputy prosecuting attorney and a criminal defense attorney, I’ve never seen a hate crime brought against the defendant”
SA: 2 Native Hawaiian men guilty of hate crime on Maui
HNN: Jury finds 2 men guilty of hate crime in 2014 attack on Maui