• Sunday, September 23, 2018
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Charges dismissed against telescope protester who insisted on speaking Hawaiian in court

  • JAMM AQUINO / 2015

    Samuel Kaleikoa Kaeo, shown being arrested at a Big Island protest in 2015, was charged with disorderly conduct, obstructing a highway and refusing to comply with an officer’s order after protesting the construction of the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope at the Haleakala summit.

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WAILUKU >> A Hawaii judge has ruled that more than six months have passed without the case against a Haleakala telescope protester going to trial, resulting in the charges being dismissed Wednesday.

Wailuku District Judge Kelsey Kawano must still determine if new charges can be brought against Samuel Kaleikoa Kaeo for the August protest, The Maui News reported.

“The six-month speedy trial rule has been exceeded,” the judge said. “The issue is going to be whether that dismissal will be with or without prejudice.”

Kaeo, a Hawaiian studies professor at the University of Hawaii Maui College, was charged with disorderly conduct, obstructing a highway and refusing to comply with an officer’s order after protesting the construction of the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope at the Haleakala summit on Maui.

Maui police officers pulled Kaeo, 51, out of the way of a truck carrying construction equipment during the protest, prosecutor Terence Herndon said.

“This case isn’t simply about the defendant exercising his right to protest,” Herndon said. “The defendant’s actions were reckless, harmful and caused MPD officers as well as himself to go into harm’s way.”

Kaeo was scheduled to go to trial in January but proceedings were delayed. A judge wasn’t able to confirm his identity and issued a warrant after Kaeo insisted on speaking Hawaiian in court. The warrant was later recalled. The court had earlier granted prosecutors’ request for the trial to be conducted in English.

The hearing sparked Hawaii’s Judiciary to review its policy, allowing those who want to speak Hawaiian in court to be able to use an interpreter.

Attorney Hayden Aluli, representing Kaeo, requested Wednesday for the dismissal to be with prejudice.

“It was a political, nonviolent protest,” Aluli said. “Don’t give the government another chance to send Mr. Kaeo down another road of prosecution.”

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