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Judge recuses self from Keauhou shooting case

A preliminary hearing for a 27-year-old South Kona man accused of murder and arson in connection with a fatal May 25 shooting in Keauhou was delayed Monday after the judge set to hear the matter recused himself.

Kona District Court Judge Joseph P. Florendo Jr. said he would be unable to preside over the preliminary hearing for Iaone Asagra because he had seen some of the evidence in the alleged shooting of Joey Richmond, 46, of Kailua-Kona, at the end of Keauhou-Kainaliu Beach Road, known locally as “End of the World,” in Keauhou.

“I came upon the scene of the vehicle that was evidently part of this incident the day after,” Florendo said in recusing himself. Per the Hawaii Revised Code of Judicial Conduct, “a judge shall disqualify or recuse himself or herself in any proceeding in which the judge’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned.”

Florendo subsequently continued the preliminary hearing, during which the state will work to prove it has probable cause to support charges of second-degree murder and first-degree arson, to Friday morning. He said the “exceptional circumstance” permitted continuing the proceeding beyond the 48-hour requirement to hold the hearing after Asagra’s initial appearance Friday in Kona District Court.

Asagra was extradited June 16 to Kailua-Kona from Honolulu, where he had been hospitalized while recovering from burns allegedly suffered when he set Richmond’s car on fire after the shooting. Asagra was taken into the custody of the Hawaii Police Department upon his arrival at Kona International Airport at Keahole and transported to the Kona Police Station.

He was charged with the second-degree murder and first-degree arson on Thursday. He remained in custody at Hawaii Community Correctional Center on Monday, appearing via video conference.

During his initial court appearance Friday, bail was maintained at $550,000 despite argument from Asagra’s court-appointed attorney for supervised release or a reduction to $100,000. William Reece stated that it would be dangerous to put Asagra “in the hotbed of coronavirus at HCCC in his condition.”

Shortly before 9:30 p.m. May 25, police responded to a report of an unresponsive man lying face-down on the ground at Keauhou-Kainaliu Beach Road. Police told West Hawaii Today that a family fishing at the site had come upon the scene and reported it to police.

Witnesses reportedly saw a silver- or gray-colored BMW leaving the area at a high rate of speed and head south on the Mamalahoa Bypass at the time of the reported shooting.

Later, police responded to a report of a vehicle on fire off Highway 160. There, they found a silver BMW on fire.

An autopsy determined Richmond died of multiple gunshot wounds, police said. The manner of death was listed as homicide.

At the time of the shooting, Asagra was free on $500,000 bail in connection with a December home invasion.

Anyone with information regarding the incident should contact Detective Kimmerlyn Makuakane-Jarrell at (808) 326-4646, ext. 262, via email at Kimmerlyn.Makuakane-Jarrell@hawaiicounty.gov, or the department’s nonemergency line at (808) 935-3311.
Source: Hawaii Tribune Herald

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