Also read: Billy Kenoi Helped Pali Shooter
by Andrew Walden
While nearly ignoring the story of how Big Island mayoral candidate Billy Kenoi in 2004 assisted in raising criminal defense funds for underworld killer Ethan Malu Motta, Big Island newspapers are finally reporting assertions that in the early morning of April 9, 2004, Kenoi threw a barstool at 23-year old Latika Grabel and then head-butted her husband, soldier Josh Grabel, at Shooters Bar and Grill, a disreputable Hilo nightspot.
This is an improvement over West Hawaii Today’s coverage earlier this year in which Kenoi claimed to be breaking up fights, not starting them. This claim by Kenoi is now countered by the numerous witness statements recorded by police at Shooters and by photographs of the victims showing redness and swelling as a result of the assault. Asked about the incident at a UH Hilo mayoral debate, Kenoi claimed the story was a “smear” but also sheepishly admitted that, “I accidentally knocked a bar stool, which knocked another bar stool, which accidentally hit a lady. The lady kinda started yelling and then her husband was crazy and got in my face. It was kinda nuts in there, and yes our heads might have accidentally touched, but lets get it straight, I neva throw one stool at anyone, intentionally head butt or punch anyone.”
But there is more to the story than a politician trying to explain away an embarrassing episode. All the newspapers have missed the connections between convicted Pali shooter Ethan Malu Motta, his codefendants, and the incident at Shooters Bar and Grill.
The January, 2004 Pali murders for which Motta is now doing time occurred at O`ahu’s Pali Golf Course as two gangs fought over who would provide so-called “security” for illegal gambling operations at several O`ahu locations.
This was hardly Motta’s first involvement in illegal gambling. Two of the Shooters “security” personnel on duty when Kenoi allegedly attacked the Grabels were co-defendants in a 2002 gambling case with Ethan Malu Motta. Thrown out on a technicality, the charges stemming from a 2002 police raid at Reyn’s Garage, were reinstated March 5, 2004 in Hilo’s Third Circuit Court. The two--James Macomber and Sam Kamahele--were working April 9, 2004 as “security” personnel at Shooters when Kenoi allegedly assaulted Mr. and Mrs. Grabel.
Six months later, Kenoi, then the Mayor’s point man in the war on methamphetamines, would appear on stage before hundreds of people at a Hilo fundraiser for Motta.
Kenoi’s companion at Shooters was Ronald Hayward, a convicted felon Kenoi has various times described as a “teacher” or “an Aloha airlines employee”. While Kenoi allegedly fled from police, Hayward was arrested at the scene. A search of the Hawai`i Ecrim database shows Hayward’s rap sheet contains 13 convictions.
Officer Peter Fernandez filed a police report. In his report Fernandez writes: “Upon entering Shooters Bar and Grill, I was informed by the employees that the male suspect was in the kitchen area talking to one of the security guards identified as James Macomber…. Macomber exited the kitchen area and informed us that the male suspect (Kenoi) had exited through another entry/exit point at the rear of the establishment…. Macomber explained that the reason he let (Kenoi) out the back door was because (Kenoi) was acting aggressively towards him, and he did not want to restrain him.”
Strip the story of rationalizations and Kenoi was “let out the back door” to escape from police by a Malu Motta co-defendant.
Perhaps Kenoi’s traffic record is also a “smear”. According to the Hawai`i Judiciary website, Kenoi has faced nine traffic charges starting with a criminal charge related to an alleged 1997 street race. It and three of the other charges were dismissed, while the State won the five other cases. Most recently, Kenoi represented himself in a Puna court in January and February of this year and beat charges including: “Delinquent motor vehicle tax, no safety check, no vehicle license plate, and (lack of) unobstructed windshield.” Other traffic charges Kenoi faced include 2002 and 2005 speeding violations, 2001 and 2002 seat belt violations, 2004 and 2005 no safety check, and 2004 no insurance.
Kenoi also has a 1989 conviction for dealing drugs, and like Motta, he once seemed to be turning his life around. The comparisons between the two do not end there. It seems that Kenoi’s legal defense strategy is copied from Motta.
Four months after Kenoi’s Shooters incident, Motta was confined to house arrest after violating the terms of his bail. According to an article in the Star-Bulletin, Motta had stayed out beyond his 9PM curfew at a Keaukaha wedding reception and then head-butted an alleged party-crasher named William Clifford. Like Kenoi, Motta’s attorney claimed that Motta was acting as a “peacemaker”. Nine people at the party signed statements denying Motta’s involvement but a secretly tape-recorded conversation between Motta and Clifford convinced the judge otherwise.
In Kenoi’s case, with the Grabels gone after months of stalling by both defense and prosecution, two new witnesses suddenly turned up denying Kenoi’s involvement and the case was dismissed.
Hawai`i Free Press independently obtained from County Police a copy of the police report which has been circulated to several newspapers and is posted online at www.AkamaiVoters.com. About 7,000 people have read the website.
In a statement mailed out to newspapers and opposing campaigns with the copies of the police report, an anonymous writer points out, “In trying to investigate this case, it is apparent that their might have been attempts to cover up this case. Trying to ascertain when the actual arrest and charging took place has been difficult, as there is no record on any police log or public blotter. Did Kenoi, as Executive Assistant to the mayor receive special treatment because of his position? …Did Mr. Kenoi’s position also influence the prosecutors’ office to go along with the defense tactic to stall and allow the witnesses and statute of limitations to lapse in favor of the accused?”
In fact the case was continued and continued until Joshua Grabel was deployed to Iraq and his wife moved away from the Big Island. Likewise, the www.AkamaiVoters.com website operator going under the false name “John Akonipule” tells the Hawai`i Tribune –Herald “I believe my girlfriend and I could be in danger here…. If Billy Kenoi is elected mayor, I don’t want to live here anymore.”
In the packets mailed out the writer states, “During the delay, Josh (Grabel) was told to drop the case, and that Kenoi had many friends. These are some of the names that were used to try and influence Josh….” The writer then lists seven surnames of East Hawai`i criminals and criminal defendants including Motta and Macomber.
The writer explains, “The people of the island should know that this guy is a liar. He said he was never arrested and charged? Out right lie….In the newspaper. It says he turns himself in, another lie….If people elect this violent criminal…marijuana growing and selling, underage drinking, speeding, assault, harassment, traffic violations galore, and being untruthful, we are a sick society. I don’t care if he SAYS he turned his life around….”
According to the Hawai`i Tribune Herald, “Kenoi said he’s trying to discover who is behind the packets and the Web site.”