Justice Department: Two Maui men found guilty of hate crimes for racially motivated attack in Kahakuloa
After a two-week jury trial, a federal jury today found Defendants Kaulana Alo-Kaonohi, 32, and Levi Aki, Jr., 33, each guilty of a hate crime for what prosecutors described as “racially motivated attacks” on C.K., a white man, when he attempted to move into the home he had purchased in their Kahakuloa neighborhood.
United States District Judge J. Michael 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.
According to a Justice Department press release, C.K. 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 Hawai’i.”
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,” according to the US Justice Department release. “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.'”
According to the release, “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 10 years of imprisonment. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the US Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
This conviction is the result of an investigation conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Assistant US 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.