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Video, witnesses to play key roles

The jury faces a challenge in deciding whether the agent shot a Kailua man in self-defense, a former prosecutor says

By Ken Kobayashi

LAST UPDATED: 06:52 p.m. HST, Jul 17, 2013

The trial for Hawaii's most publicized murder case in more than a decade opens Monday when the prosecution and defense present to a jury their widely divergent versions of how a State Department special agent fatally shot a 23-year-old Kailua man.

The key issue will be who instigated the deadly altercation and whether the off-duty special agent, Christopher Deedy, was justified in firing his 9 mm Glock at Kollin Elderts early in the morning of Nov. 5, 2011, at a McDonald's restaurant on Kuhio Avenue.

City prosecutors are seeking a second-degree murder conviction that carries a mandatory life term with parole, while defense attorneys say Deedy acted in self-defense and should be cleared of all charges.

The jury will probably also have the option of convicting Deedy on the lesser offense of manslaughter rather than murder.

The case holds similarities with the highly publicized murder trial of neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman in the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin unfolding in a Florida courtroom.

Like the Deedy case, the jury in the racially charged Zimmerman trial must determine whether the defendant committed murder or acted in self-defense.

But one significant difference is that Deedy fired the fatal shot at a fast-food restaurant with numerous witnesses, and the jury will view a McDonald's security surveillance recording of the incident.


Christopher Deedy, 29, is a special agent for the State Department who was in Hawaii in November 2011 as part of the security detail for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting. He lives in Arlington, Va., with his wife.


Kollin Elderts was a 23-year-old Kailua resident who was out with friends in Waikiki early in the morning of Nov. 5, 2011, when he was shot in an altercation with Deedy.


Deedy is charged with second-degree murder. He does not dispute shooting Elderts in the Kuhio Avenue McDonald’s, but contends that Elderts attacked him. The restaurant’s soundless surveillance video of the incident will be shown to the jury.

Deedy, 29, an Arlington, Va., resident, was here to help provide security for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, which drew national and international media coverage that included reports of the shooting.

The murder charge against the federal agent fueled anti-government sentiments and led to demonstrations by protesters holding signs calling for "Justice for Kollin Elderts."

The allegations that Elderts called Deedy a "f------ haole" added to the racial overtones of a Caucasian visitor shooting a local resident.

Hawaii lawyers also don't recall any trial here involving a law enforcement officer being prosecuted on a charge of firing a fatal shot.

THE MASSIVE publicity led to Circuit Judge Karen Ahn granting a request by city prosecutors to seal the soundless McDonald's surveillance video until trial.

The news coverage has rivaled that generated by the 2000 trial of Byran Uyesugi, who fatally shot seven fellow Xerox employees a year earlier in Hawaii's first workplace mass murder. Uyesugi was convicted after the jury rejected his insanity defense.

In Deedy's case, jury selection was completed in three weeks, which was quicker than expected, and both the prosecution and defense waived their final chances to excuse jurors without providing a reason, indicating both sides were satisfied with the panel.

Some legal observers say the jury likely will be able to follow the court's instructions to set aside any personal bias or sympathies based on the racial aspects of the case.

"I haven't seen juries really affected in Hawaii about race or racial overtones in a case, not like other places," said state Public Defender Jack Tonaki, who has been with the office for more than 27 years. "I think it's because our population is so diverse. Even if racial things are said, I think both sides will get a fair shake."

Previous murder cases here involving altercations and self-defense have sometimes resulted in a conviction of the lesser charge of manslaughter.

One reason, legal experts say, is that in Hawaii, once the issue is raised, the prosecution must convince the jury beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant did not act in self-defense.

"It's a heavy burden the prosecution carries," said Franklin "Don" Pacarro, a former city deputy prosecutor who handled murder trials. "But like any other case, it depends on the facts and what comes out at trial."

Another challenge for the prosecution is whether the jurors might put more weight on Deedy's contentions because of his status as a law enforcement officer, according to Pacarro.

Tonaki said, "The natural question is going to be raised, why would someone jeopardize his entire career and, just because they don't like someone, pull out a gun and shoot him?"

For the defense, one of the major challenges will be whether Deedy was drunk.

The prosecution has contended that Deedy violated State Department rules when he spent the night drinking with friends while armed.

Deedy appeared intoxicated at McDonald's, the prosecution asserted.

"Carrying a firearm comes with a lot of responsibility," Pacarro said.

Ahn will decide whether the jurors will be able to return a manslaughter verdict, an option that legal observers say will mostly likely be approved in view of Deedy raising the issue of self-defense.

Neither the prosecution nor defense is expected to urge the panel to return the manslaughter verdict. The prosecutors want the murder conviction, while the defense wants an outright acquittal.

A manslaughter conviction, however, would mean Deedy would face time in prison.

The opening statements are expected to follow the scenarios outlined in documents filed in court earlier by the prosecution and defense.

The prosecution's version is that Deedy slurred his words as he argued with Elderts, told him he had a gun and threatened to shoot Elderts in the face. Deedy "thrust kicked" Elderts, who later punched Deedy in the face. As Deedy got up from the floor, he pulled out his gun and started shooting, prosecutors said.

Deedy was never heard to say he was a law enforcement officer or federal agent, according to prosecutors, who also note that the special agent could have left the restaurant to defuse the confrontation and was not acting as a law enforcement officer when he shot Elderts.

The defense scenario is that although Deedy was off-duty, he was acting as a law enforcement officer based on his training.

The defense said a drunken Elderts harassed a customer. When Deedy asked the customer if he was all right, Elderts directed his aggression to the agent, called him a "f------ haole" and challenged him to a fight.

Deedy identified himself as a law enforcement officer and displayed his badge, but Elderts became angrier, the defense maintained.

Elderts moved toward the agent, who delivered a "frontal thrust kick" to Elderts' leg, according to the defense.

Elderts got up, hit Deedy's friend, Adam Gutowski, in the head and charged Deedy, grabbing his leg and hitting him in the face, the defense said. Deedy drew his gun, but Elderts charged the agent and tried to grab the weapon, defense attorneys maintain.

During the struggle, Deedy felt "compelled" to fire the fatal shot to defend himself and others, the defense said.

The critical issue for the jury is who was the first aggressor.

With witnesses likely to provide conflicting statements, Pacarro said the case will present "a challenge to both sides" as to what really happened at the restaurant.


>> Judge: Circuit Judge Karen Ahn, former newspaper and television reporter, city deputy prosecutor and district judge; appointed circuit judge by former Gov. Ben Cayetano in 2000. Her second 10-year term expires in 2020.
>> Shooting:
Christopher Deedy is not disputing he fatally shot Kollin Elderts, 23, of Kailua, at about 2:45 a.m. on Nov. 5, 2011, at the McDonald’s restaurant on Kuhio Avenue.
>> Defendant:
Deedy, 29, State Department special agent; free on $250,000 bond and permitted to go back to his Arlington, Va., home to continue working with the department, he has returned for the trial.
>> Charges:
Second-degree murder and a firearms charge, using a gun to commit a felony. The jury also will probably have the option of convicting Deedy of manslaughter rather than murder.
>> Sentences:
Mandatory life term with parole for second-degree murder; maximum 20-year term for the firearm charge; maximum 20-year term for manslaughter.
>> Prosecution:
After a night of drinking, Deedy was the aggressor in an altercation that ended when he fired three shots from his 9 mm Glock, one fatally striking Elderts in the chest. Under federal State Department guidelines, agents are not supposed to drink alcohol while armed.
>> Defense:
Deedy was off-duty, but was acting as a federal law enforcement officer when he shot Elderts to defend himself and others. Elderts, who was belligerent and drunk, attacked Deedy, grabbed the agent’s gun and left Deedy with no choice but to fire the fatal shot.
>> Prosecution team:
Janice Futa, city deputy prosecutor, assisted by city Deputy Prosecutor Chasid Sapolu. Futa, a deputy prosecutor from 1977 to 1984, returned to the office in 2010. She has a reputation as a formidable, hard-nosed prosecutor.
>> Defense team: Privately retained, prominent Honolulu defense criminal lawyer Brook Hart, the first head of the state public defender’s office from 1970 to 1972. Assisted by associate Margaret Nammar and co-counsel Karl Blanke of Fairfax, Va.
>> Trial length:
Estimated one to two months.
>> Witnesses:
Defense says Deedy is likely to take the stand, although it depends on the prosecution’s case. The prosecution lists 96 prospective witnesses, including Shane Medeiros, Elderts’ friend, who was at the shooting scene. The defense lists 141 prospective witnesses, including Adam Gutowski and Jessica West, Elderts’ companions who were with him earlier and at McDonald’s. Not all are expected to be called and some prospective witnesses are on both lists.
>> Evidence:
Includes the McDonald’s restaurant surveillance video, which will be shown to the jury. It has been sealed by the judge until trial.


Ken Kobayashi, Star-Advertiser

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MalamaKaAina wrote:
Is there any connection between HPD pay raise and HPD failing to take blood from junior G-Man?
on July 7,2013 | 02:10AM
Wahiawamauka wrote:
HPD pay raise? Don't see the connection to this. However, is it standard procedure to draw blood from someone potentially involved in a murder? Like a traffic accident? If it is standard procedure, why wasn't the blood drawn? Very good question.
on July 7,2013 | 03:14AM
LMO wrote:
Because he was a fellow officer, so they gave him a break.
on July 7,2013 | 03:35AM
false wrote:
HPD has on other occasions failed to give the test. This was a serious failure on their part it terms of equity of justice. At any rate, there will be a civil suit. Due process is required for all, my son, your son, my uncle, your uncle, your brother, etc. Deedy's HPD SOP failed the public.
on July 7,2013 | 05:34AM
allie wrote:
on July 7,2013 | 08:16AM
saywhatyouthink wrote:
Blood is drawn only in vehicle accident investigations ding bat.
on July 7,2013 | 02:30PM
NanakuliBoss wrote:
No blood drawn, because Deedy got a lawyer. DUI and criminal law are completely different.
on July 7,2013 | 11:28AM
BigOpu wrote:
Not a problem. Just call up the bartenders who served him drinks or establishments he was at when drinking.
on July 7,2013 | 08:10AM
bigisle wrote:
for both, I'd hope.....
on July 7,2013 | 10:45AM
NanakuliBoss wrote:
Bigisle,for both? Elderts did get blood tested. Deedy did not. You don't need a bartender to say Elderts went drinking, but you do need one to say Deedy was intoxicated.
on July 7,2013 | 11:31AM
saywhatyouthink wrote:
I don't think Deedy is denying he had been drinking.
on July 7,2013 | 02:31PM
kailua000 wrote:
but i guarantee you the friends with our local moke wont testify he'd been high and drinking all night. thats a fact, i know my neighbors son was with him all night and he'd lie on the stand so fast if hes called
on July 8,2013 | 12:16AM
soundofreason wrote:
Here's another story that might explain such actions.......

"On March 27, 2007, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported that the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department was ordered to pay $1.48 million to settle a federal lawsuit alleging Las Vegas police gave special treatment to an officer's wife who hit and killed a bicyclist in 1994. The settlement ends 13 years of legal fighting that began shortly after Erin DeLew was killed while riding her bike home from a Summerlin supermarket. The driver, Janet Wagner, had been drinking alcohol that evening but was never charged, according to court documents. The lawsuit contended that her husband, Officer David Wagner, and his fellow officers knew she had been drinking but covered it up and delayed calling the Nevada Highway Patrol, which eventually took over the investigation."

on July 7,2013 | 09:29AM
NanakuliBoss wrote:
And soundofreason, that Las Vegas article might explain such actions by HPD? Was Deedy an HPD wife?
on July 7,2013 | 11:33AM
soundofreason wrote:
No, but the topic was coverups. And they do happen...all over.
on July 7,2013 | 01:00PM
saywhatyouthink wrote:
It's not a DUI incident, I've never heard of a cop being tested for anything after shooting a criminal in the act of committing a crime.
on July 7,2013 | 02:20PM
allie wrote:
This entire tragedy should never have happened. Deedy was obviously poorly trained. It was an insult to send such a poorly trained and incompetent man here. Moreover, the entire "conference" was a nothing occurrence. Nothing was accomplished other than a few photo ops. What needless tragedy. Shame on Peter the Ho and other business "leaders" out here for supporting this bad conference. Nothing accomplished other than one innocent person dead.
on July 7,2013 | 09:04AM
bigisle wrote:
have you ever attempted to gain entry into the State Dept.?....otherwise known as sometimes CIA operatives?......it's no cake walk, and the candidates are thoroughly trained.....the deceased is far from innocent also......
on July 7,2013 | 10:44AM
NanakuliBoss wrote:
bigidiot, State Dept agents are not CIA operatives. Where did you get that bs from. Their wannabe secret service.
on July 7,2013 | 11:35AM
saywhatyouthink wrote:
Diplomatic Security Service agents protect the Secretary of State, Ambassadors and other diplomatic staff members at our embassies around the world. They are federal agents with full police powers anywhere on US soil. Similar to the FBI and Secret Service - it's not an easy job to get,
on July 7,2013 | 02:38PM
saywhatyouthink wrote:
Innocent? ... I doubt that and the video will likely show that! If the video confirmed the prosecution's allegations it would already have been released to the public..
on July 7,2013 | 02:17PM
lee1957 wrote:
So you are alleging that the arbitration panel somehow was corrupted by some unknown group to reward HPD for not drawing Deedy's blood? Time to take off the tin foil hat.
on July 7,2013 | 10:23AM
tigerwarrior wrote:
Everything hinges on whether or not, "....Elderts charged the agent and tried to grab the weapon." If the surveillance footage and the witness testimony can prove that Elderts did not attempt to grab Deedy's 9 mm Glock--I believe the prosecution has a very strong case in my humble opinion. I say this because in order for deadly force to be justified--especially with regard to an off-duty agent--Elderts would have to have had posed an immediate threat to the life of Deedy or another person nearby. Law enforcement agents are not given carte-blanche with regard to the use of excessive force and such force should be used within legal and departmental guidelines. To a lesser degree, if the surveillance video and witness testimony can prove that Deedy did not first identify himself as an off-duty agent and failed to state his intention to shoot--along with whether or not he was under the influence of alcohol at the time of the shooting--this could also be detrimental to the defense. But the tricky thing about using surveillance video is it often seems that the footage either disappears and is indecipherable when you need it most or the footage you are searching for comes up as a blind spot of the security camera.
on July 7,2013 | 04:56AM
false wrote:
What about by stander videos? As for grabbing the gun, hasn't it been reported that Deedy started the altercation and aren't guns snapped into the holster? So is it really possible for someone to grab at the gun and unseat it? Or was it that Deedy had the gun out when Elderts grabbed for it. The position of the gun is a critical demarcation in this judgement.
on July 7,2013 | 05:38AM
bigisle wrote:
no, he didn't start anything....he came to the aid/defense of another patron....the deceased was proven inebriated on various forms of intoxicants......the prosecution and judge sealing the tapes make things look awful peculiar.
on July 7,2013 | 10:40AM
false wrote:
Peculiar says it all, doesn't it? Peculiar for whom? The deceased? Don't think so because he has his consequences. Only one left for consequences from "peculiar" responses is Deedy.
on July 7,2013 | 12:35PM
tigerwarrior wrote:
It would appear that from the testimony released so far that Deedy was acting as a Good Samaritan. We've heard of a bunch of cases over the past few years--including a few in Waikiki--where when a stranger intervened in a violent dispute--in most cases it turned out ugly and sometimes turned out fatal for the Good Samaritan. Hindsight would dictate that perhaps it would have been better to call HPD to handle such scenarios. Of course there would be an exception if the patron that Elderts reputedly was arguing with was in danger of losing his life. So in my opinion, this appears to be more about a judgement call on whether Deedy was justified in using deadly force--and shouldn't merely be about self-defense, whether or not he was intoxicated, whether race was an issue or some other reason.
on July 7,2013 | 01:50PM
tigerwarrior wrote:
This is the reason why it is so important for a law enforcement officer/agent to identify himself beforehand as such in cases where he/she is armed and prepared to use whatever force necessary to subdue someone. Another possible scenario is perhaps Elderts may have mistaken Deedy for a civilian and was attempting to disarm Deedy with no intention to use the firearm on Deedy. On the other hand, if Elderts knew full well that Deedy was a federal agent--yet still attacked Deedy regardless and attempted to take his firearm--that's a whole different story. So I would have to agree that the position of the gun is critical--and we'll see if the video footage and witness testimony can verify what really happened.
on July 7,2013 | 02:02PM
allie wrote:
on July 7,2013 | 04:03PM
sayer wrote:
I agree with the comment in the article that the jurors will be able to overlook racial issues and give this case a fair hearing.
on July 7,2013 | 06:26AM
bigisle wrote:
we'll see....a lot of the comments seemed to be pointed otherwise...
on July 7,2013 | 10:41AM
NanakuliBoss wrote:
Bigisle, I don't see any pointing otherwise?
on July 7,2013 | 11:38AM
Grimbold wrote:
This comment has been deleted.
on July 7,2013 | 06:57AM
BigBird001 wrote:
Ah, yes, the white man is usually the mentally inferior one.
on July 7,2013 | 07:46AM
soundofreason wrote:
Explains the history of so many "local" governors here.
on July 7,2013 | 08:36AM
NanakuliBoss wrote:
Also explains the reason for local texans to be governor of Texas. And californians of California. And floridians of Florida, etc.etc. Get the drift?
on July 7,2013 | 11:50AM
soundofreason wrote:
Yeah, if you and I want to continue dodging the race thing he was initially referring to.
on July 7,2013 | 01:02PM
NanakuliBoss wrote:
What race thing? Look in the mirror and ask?
on July 7,2013 | 01:38PM
lee1957 wrote:
Hate groups are on a different blog.
on July 7,2013 | 10:27AM
NanakuliBoss wrote:
Damn grim, you had to throw that in.
on July 7,2013 | 11:39AM
NanakuliBoss wrote:
Grimbold,look in a mirror at your hair,eyes and skin color, then say Im mentally inferior. Lol.
on July 7,2013 | 01:41PM
Slow wrote:
I was called a ***ing haole once so I shot the guy and killed him. What is the defense again?
on July 7,2013 | 07:45AM
soundofreason wrote:
Funny how the article repeated points out that Deedy had alcohol in his system yet absolutely no mention of the drugs in Eldert's system. Fair and balanced?
on July 7,2013 | 08:02AM
Waimanalodayz1 wrote:
This comment has been deleted.
on July 7,2013 | 08:09AM
allie wrote:
Deedy goes down with a manslaughter conviction. It is not second degree murder though. Neither man was a good man that night.
on July 7,2013 | 08:17AM
soundofreason wrote:
I'll give ya that point.
on July 7,2013 | 09:20AM
false wrote:
Regardless of the verdict he is going to a "hotel" somewhere to serve his time.
on July 7,2013 | 12:36PM
soundofreason wrote:
IF convicted, I'm afraid you're right.
on July 7,2013 | 01:59PM
saywhatyouthink wrote:
He's not going to jail .... why do you think the prosecution wants to withhold the video? The only reason for that has to be it doesn't support their murder charge. Otherwise, it would have been released long ago.
on July 7,2013 | 02:26PM
sayer wrote:
Interesting point.
on July 7,2013 | 05:04PM
soundofreason wrote:
I agree. If it DID support their point, they'd want it out there to prejudice as many people as possible.
on July 7,2013 | 07:28PM
bigisle wrote:
why?....sounds as if the agent came to the assistance of anther restaurant patron, and the drunk/drugged-out boy believed he was someone who was gonna' beat on one haole thus learning a one time fatal lesson....and jack tonaki's take on race is precious....considering the source...
on July 7,2013 | 10:23AM
bigisle wrote:
look out for the censor police on this article.....can't make a comment on race.....taboo
on July 7,2013 | 10:31AM
bigisle wrote:
The agent came to the aid of someone, and an inebriated young man thought he'd give dirty lickings.....what a fatal mistake.....agents, like police officers, are given authority 24/7......funny thing about the prosecutors' desire to 'seal' the tapes till trial....and the judge allowing such (?)
on July 7,2013 | 10:35AM
NanakuliBoss wrote:
"Like the Deedy case, the jury in the racially charged Zimmerman trial must determine whether the defendant committed murder or acted on self defense".??? First of all Ken Kobayashi, this case is not racially charged. Don't try to sell newspapers. All the people want is a fair trial. Guilty or not, there will be no riots in the streets of Honolulu.
on July 7,2013 | 11:47AM
allie wrote:
agree..but SA is desperate for scandal and racial anger.
on July 7,2013 | 11:56AM
false wrote:
They have you allie for that.
on July 7,2013 | 12:38PM
allie wrote:
on July 7,2013 | 04:04PM
NanakuliBoss wrote:
Grimbold, don't tell that to our President of the United States!
on July 7,2013 | 11:48AM
saywhatyouthink wrote:
I think it's pretty clear who started the fight, anyone born and raised on this island is well aware of the type of person Eldert's was, we may not have known him, but we've seen many just like him. Deedy is obviously telling the truth, that's not to say the Eldert's deserved to die but I think he brought it upon himself and is largely responsible for his own death. The Prosecutor doesn't want anyone to see the video?? Why?? Probably because most people wouldn't agree that Deedy was guilty of murder. Keith Kaneshiro is an incompetent prosecutor, this trial is a waste of taxpayer resources.
on July 7,2013 | 02:13PM
NanakuliBoss wrote:
And being born on this island, and knowing the type of people born in the mainland where Deedy was born, ( high crime,murders,rape,child molestation), it's easy to see what type beady Deedy was.
on July 7,2013 | 07:36PM
kailua000 wrote:
yes, here there are rapes, commits crimes, molests children. What hawaii are you living in. its the land of Aloha where everyone is tolerant and loving. What Deedy did was wrong but you know the moke got in his face. He was tweeking earlier in the evening and if his moke friends, one who lives next door to me, tell the truth, which they wont, you'll see Eldert was not some innocent nice boy like his momma will say. You are yourself making a racist statment about 'the type of people born on the mainland'. Im assuming you've never been there.
on July 8,2013 | 12:20AM