Justice Department: two Maui men sentenced for 2014 racially motivated attack in Kahakuloa
Two men from Maui were sentenced in federal court for their racially motivated attack on a white man who was attempting to move into their neighborhood of Kahakuloa, according to the US Department of Justice.
Kaulana Alo-Kaonohi, 33, was sentenced to 6.5 years in prison; and Levi Aki Jr., 33, was sentenced to four years and two months in prison.
“The defendants in this case nearly killed a man because they believed he did not belong in their neighborhood because of the color of his skin,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division in a department press release. “The law protects everyone in this country from racially motivated violence, and these sentences send a strong message that such violence will not be tolerated.”
“No one should suffer the violence, cover up and injustice the defendants wrought in this case,” said US Attorney Clare E. Connors for the District of Hawaiʻi in th release. “All persons have a right to freedom from violence motivated by racial hatred, and the Department is committed to ensuring that right is protected in a court of law.”
“This horrific violence was motived by nothing other than hate,” said Special Agent in Charge Steven Merrill of the FBI Honolulu Field Office. “The FBI is committed to ensuring those who perpetrate such injustices are held accountable and that civil rights are respected and protected for all.”
At trial, the evidence showed that the victim, 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 the Justice Department, 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 Hawaiʻi.”
The US Department of Justice recounted the events in the release:
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, Alo-Kaonohi dragged his index finger along C.K.’s jaw and told him, “Your skin is the wrong f****** color.” Aki then picked up a roofing shovel and handed it to Alo-Kaonohi, who struck C.K. in the head with it, 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, 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 and broke two of his ribs. During the second attack, one of the defendants said, “no white man is ever going to live here.”
At the sentencing hearing, the government introduced evidence saying that just months after his unprovoked attack on C.K., Alo-Kaonohi committed a similar unprovoked attacked on a white-skinned man at the Steel Horse Saloon, a bar in Wailuku, Maui. In that attack, Alo-Kaonohi approached the victim from behind, tapped him on the shoulder and then punched him repeatedly in the head until he was unconscious, according to the department. The victim sustained a large gash on his head that required seven staples to close and suffered permanent brain damage, the release stated.
Assistant Attorney General Clarke, US Attorney Connors and Special Agent in Charge Merrill made the announcement.
The FBI Honolulu Field Office conducted the investigation.
Assistant US Attorney Chris Thomas for the District of Hawaii and Special Litigation Counsel Christopher J. Perras and Trial Attorney Tara Allison of the Civil Rights Division’s Criminal Section prosecuted the case.