2 Native Hawaiians sentenced to prison for hate-crime beating of white homeowner

2 Native Hawaiians sentenced to prison for hate-crime beating of white homeowner2 Native Hawaiians sentenced to prison for hate-crime beating of white homeowner
via Hawaii News Now
Two Native Hawaiian men who were found guilty of a hate crime for attacking a white homeowner in Maui has been sentenced in federal court.
On Nov. 17, 2022, a federal jury found Kaulana Alo-Kaonohi, 32, and Levi Aki, Jr., 33, guilty of a hate crime for what prosecutors called “racially motivated attacks” on Christopher Kunzelman, a white homeowner, in Maui in 2014.
On Thursday, Alo-Kaonohi was sentenced to six and a half years in prison while Aki received four years and two months for their racially motivated attack.
The defendants previously barged into Kunzelman’s property to demand he leave the village, threatening to tie him up and make him “go missing” if he refused.
Kunzelman was beaten in the head with a shovel and kicked in the ribs, causing him to suffer a concussion, two broken ribs and head trauma.
“It was obviously a hate crime from the very beginning,” Kunzelman’s wife Lori told The Associated Press. “The whole time they’re saying things like, ‘You have the wrong skin color. No ‘haole’ is ever going to live in our neighborhood.’”
Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division said that such violence “will not be tolerated.”  

The defendants in this case nearly killed a man because they believed he did not belong in their neighborhood because of the color of his skin. The law protects everyone in this country from racially motivated violence, and these sentences send a strong message that such violence will not be tolerated.  

At the hearing, the government also introduced evidence that Alo-Kaonohi committed a similar unprovoked attack on a white-skinned man just months after his attack on Kunzelman.
Alo-Kaonohi reportedly approached the man at a bar in Wailuku and punched him repeatedly in the head until he was unconscious. 
The victim sustained a gash on his head that required seven staples to close. He also suffered permanent brain damage. 
Alo-Kaonohi was sentenced to a year in prison for the assault.
“No one should suffer the violence, cover up and injustice the defendants wrought in this case,” U.S. Attorney Clare E. Connors for the District of Hawaii said. “All persons have a right to freedom from violence motivated by racial hatred, and the Department is committed to ensuring that right is protected in a court of law.”
While both men were found guilty of hate crimes, Aki and Alo-Kaonohi’s attorneys alleged that it was Kunzelman’s entitled and disrespectful attitude that provoked them, not his race.
According to the defense attorneys, ​​Kunzelman said he moved into the village with the intention of helping residents improve their homes and boost property values without considering higher property taxes. Kunzelman also testified he had cut locks to village gates because he was getting locked in and out and wanted to provide the area and its residents with better locks and keys.
In a letter to the judge, Aki said that he was not a racist, stating: “Not only because I am almost half-Caucasian but also because I have people who I love and care about who are white.”
Local lawyers believe that Alo-Kaonohi and Aki’s case is the first time the U.S. has prosecuted Native Hawaiians for hate crimes. 
The incident has since sparked discussion regarding Hawaii’s racial complexity. 
In an interview with The Associated Press, Judy Rohrer, an author and a professor at Eastern Washington University, said white people residing outside of Hawaii are unaccustomed to being identified racially.
“We’re used to being in the majority and then we get to Hawaii and all of a sudden we’re not in the majority, and that makes us uncomfortable,” Rohrer said. 
About 38% of Hawaii’s 1.5 million residents are Asian, 26% are white, 20% are Native Hawaiians, 2% are Black and many others are of multiple ethnicities, according to U.S. census figures. 
According to reports, Aki referred to Kunzelman as a “rich haole guy,” a “dumb haole,” and a “typical haole thinking he owning everything.”
Rohrer noted that the Hawaiian word “haole” is used to describe a foreigner’s behavior or attitudes that are not in sync with local culture. To act “haole” means to act “out of entitlement, and like you own the place,” she said.
Tiare Lawrence, a Native Hawaiian community advocate on Maui, explained to the Associated Press that the tensions surrounding the case goes back to Hawaii’s history of U.S. colonization. 
“The threat of outsiders coming in … brings a lot of sadness for Hawaiians who are trying so hard to hold on to what little piece of paradise we have left,” Lawrence said, adding that she does not condone the attack. 
While Lori acknowledged that she was unaware of Hawaiian history, she said that “attacking an individual white man doesn’t change history or improve things or justify actions on anybody’s part.”

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