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Fourth charged in guard beating incident

KAILUA-KONA — The fourth person at the scene of a brutal hotel beating this fall has been charged in connection with the crime.

Mahealani Kanehailua, of Kona, is facing a charge of attempted first-degree hindering prosecution stemming from the Sept. 17 incident at the Kona Seaside Hotel in downtown Kailua-Kona. The early-morning incident critically injured a 63-year-old security guard who remains hospitalized on the mainland.

“Upon further review of the video and the facts of the case, the state decided to charge her with hindering prosecution,” said Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Sheri Lawson, who is handling the hotel assault cases. She declined to provide an update on the victim, citing patient privacy.

The Kona grand jury indictment, handed down Nov. 5, states Kanehailua intended to “hinder the apprehension, prosecution, conviction or punishment” of Wesley Samoa and/or Lama Lauvao and/or Natisha Tautalatasi. Samoa, of Kona, and Lauvao and Tautalatasi, both of Honolulu, each face one count attempted second-degree murder.

Kanehailua, who remains free after posting $2,000 bail, pleaded not guilty to the charge during an arraignment and plea hearing Nov. 15 in 3rd Circuit Court before Judge Robert DS Kim. Trial was set for Feb. 5, 2019, before 3rd Circuit Court Judge Melvin Fujino.

Samoa, Lauvao and Tautalatasi have also entered not guilty pleas to attempted second-degree murder. Trial is set for Jan. 29, 2018. The defendants remain in custody in lieu of $250,000 bail.

Upon conviction, attempted first-degree hindering prosecution, a Class C felony, is punishable by up to five years incarceration and a max fine of $10,000, according to Hawaii Revised Statutes. Attempted second-degree murder carries life imprisonment with the possibility of parole and up to a $50,000 fine.

Kanehailua was initially not charged with a crime following the incident — though she was the fourth occupant in a vehicle also carrying Samoa, Lauvao and Tautalatasi — early Sept. 17 that appears to have been triggered by a hotel security guard asking the four to turn their music down.

Hotel video surveillance of the incident shows Samoa, Tautalatasi and Lauvao along with a fourth person chatting outside the hotel when the victim, a security guard, pulls up in a golf cart. After what appeared to be an exchange of words, the video shows the three suspects pull the security guard, later identified as John Kanui, out of the cart and repeatedly kick and punch him in the head, back and stomach.

The video has been shared widely online and played on TV after it was released by authorities to news outlets. West Hawaii Today has refrained from publishing or sharing the video on its platforms out of respect for the family.

Police said shortly after the incident that Kanehailua did not participate in the assault. She was, however, arrested on suspicion of operating a vehicle while intoxicated. A check of court records found no DUI case for Kanehailua.

Details on Kanui’s condition have been sporadic with the most information released by a Kona Community Hospital emergency room doctor who treated the victim before he was flown to Oahu. The doctor, who testified during a Sept. 21 preliminary hearing, said the victim suffered a cervical spine fracture and classified the injuries as serious.

Candi Hill Runn, who said she is the niece of Kanui, created a fundraiser on GoFundMe on Sept. 29 to raise money for her uncle’s increasing medical bills. According to the campaign, Kanui suffered a broken neck and a traumatic brain injury in the attack and has been moved to a facility on the mainland for care.

Runn said Friday she was unable to speak with the newspaper, citing legal counsel. Attempts over a two-day period to reach Jen Farrell, who was interviewed late last month by KHON2, were unsuccessful.

However, the woman told the Honolulu news outlet on Nov. 26 that she’d recently visited her father, noting he still has an uphill battle.

“I just don’t understand what would possess anyone to be so cruel and have no regards to another person’s life. I don’t understand that. It frustrates me, it angers me, and it saddens me all at the same time,” she said.

She later said to those who injured her father: “I just want them to understand that they’ve forever changed not only my dad’s life but their families’ lives as well because they decided to make poor choices they’ve impacted many families — theirs included,” Farrell said on KHON2.

As of Friday, the GoFundMe campaign was nearing $25,000. To contribute, visit https://www.gofundme.com/security-guard-help.
Source: Hawaii Tribune Herald

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