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Murder suspect burns through lawyers en route to new trial

LIHU‘E — It has been nearly 10 years since Vicente Hilario was sentenced to life in prison for the execution-style murder of Aureo Moore at Anahola Beach Park.

Now, his case appears poised to go back to trial.

Hilario’s conviction was remanded for a new trial in 2017 when an Intermediate Court of Appeals ruled his right to meaningfully participate in his defense had been impeded because his request to approach the bench during jury selection of his original trial was denied.

He is currently scheduled for a trial date on Nov. 7. But the lawyer who will be representing him remains an open question.

Last week, Hilario’s current attorney Bentley Adams III filed a motion to withdraw from two cases involving the defendant, citing a “breakdown in attorney-client relationship.”

“I became aware of certain confidential and privileged facts which create a serious non-waivable and irreconcilable conflict which prevent me from representing Mr. Hilario or possibly even speaking to him any further,” Adams wrote.

Hilario, appearing at the courthouse from Kaua‘i Community Correctional Center via Zoom, was indignant about Adams’ motion.

“That’s not fair for me,” Hilario said. “He didn’t let me know. If he wasn’t planning to represent me he shouldn’t have taken this case. Now I feel like I’m being penalized. I’m going to be waiting forever to get to trial.”

This isn’t the first time this has happened. His previous attorney Manny Guerrero also dropped out of the case earlier this year, citing similar concerns.

Hilario’s longtime attorney Keith Shigetomi dropped the case in 2021 when he closed his practice.

Finding an attorney for the upcoming trial has been difficult, Judge Randal Valenciano said Tuesday.

“It would be somewhat unfair to tell the incoming attorney you have a murder trial in a month,” Valenciano said.

“I’m not sure what my options are,” Hilario said. “If I want to go to trial, what options do I have?”

“You could represent yourself, but given the seriousness of the charges the court would not recommend that,” Valenciano said.

Prosecutors contested Adams’ motion to withdraw, because it does not address the issue of continuing the trial or appointing a new counsel. They reported they had already sent out subpoenas to more than 40 witnesses under the assumption that the trial would occur on Nov. 7.

The court required Adams to submit more information about his reasons for withdrawing. If granted, Adams’ withdrawal would likely delay the trial date.

The crime

In March 2013, Hilario was convicted of murder in the first degree, retaliating against a witness, intimidating a witness, and bribery of a witness for the 2010 killing of Moore, for which he was later sentenced to life in prison. Prosecutors alleged that Hilario bribed a woman with pills to arrange a meeting with Moore, where he shot him six times.

Moore was set to testify against Hilario and his friend Kyle Akau in a stick-up drug robbery that took place in the parking lot of the Safeway supermarket in Kapa‘a earlier that year.

Hilario has maintained his innocence, testifying his friend David Manaku shot Moore without his knowledge or consent.

Manaku testified with immunity that he witnessed Hilario shoot Moore, and did not know of the plan. Another man who was present, Kyler Hansen-Loo, backed up Hilario’s version of events. But multiple other witnesses describe the shooter as someone resembling Hilario’s build, and expert witnesses testified that Hilario had gunshot residue on his hands, while Manaku did not.

Moore’s family described the victim as a surfer and construction worker who developed an oxycodone addiction after he suffered a back injury on the job.


Guthrie Scrimgeour, reporter, can be reached at 808-647-0329 or
Source: The Garden Island

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