Convicted felon held for gun possession, threatening officer

Surveillance video showed suspect taking what looks like a gun from pack

James Burkhart

James Burkhart

WAILUKU — A convicted felon was being held without bail after he was arrested last week for allegedly possessing a revolver and threatening an off-duty police officer in a Kihei bar.

James Burkhart, 41, who is also known as James Alo and Hina Boy, is charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm, keeping a firearm in an improper place, first-degree terroristic threatening, third-degree assault, harassment and disorderly conduct.

The incident occurred the night of Oct. 10 at Lava Rock Grill & Bar in Kihei Kalama Village.

Burkhart was at the bar with another man when he recognized the off-duty officer and tried to start a fight, making gestures and taking off his shirt, Deputy Prosecutor Joanne Hicks said during Burkhart’s initial appearance Tuesday in Wailuku District Court.

When the man with Burkhart went to the restroom, Burkhart followed and, while passing the officer, whispered in his ear to meet Burkhart in the bathroom, “basically trying to get him to fight with him in the bathroom,” Hicks said.

She said the officer didn’t respond to Burkhart’s taunts before bouncers got Burkhart to leave. He returned to the bar and again began taunting the officer before being escorted outside, Hicks said.

Outside the bar, witnesses reported that Burkhart was rubbing his groin and staring at two women, Hicks said. The women got up to leave and Burkhart punched one woman in her right eye, causing a black eye, bruising and swelling, she said.

As the woman fell after being punched, Burkhart grabbed her by the hair, Hicks said.

She said Burkhart ran when the woman’s friends intervened.

Later, a review of surveillance video showed Burkhart taking what appeared to be a gun out of his waist pack and placing it in his shorts pocket while he was in the bar, Hicks said. Police recovered a .38-caliber revolver when they executed a search warrant for Burkhart’s luggage Monday morning, she said.

Burkhart arrived on Maui on Oct. 2 to stay with his father and look for a job, Hicks said.

She said Burkhart is “known by law enforcement to be involved in the USO Family prison gang.”

In asking that Burkhart be held without bail, she said, “His criminal history shows he is a ticking time bomb.”

“He gets into trouble anytime he’s not in prison,” Hicks said. “Since 1996, there’s been practically no period where he hasn’t had contact with the law or been in prison.”

For his most recent conviction for being felon in possession of a firearm, Burkhart was sentenced to two and a half years in federal prison in 2009, Hicks said. He was released from prison in 2012 before violating his supervised release by using methamphetamine and being sentenced to another 11 months in prison.

He has convictions for third-degree promotion of a dangerous drug, possessing drug paraphernalia and reckless driving in 2006. In 1996, he was sentenced to a 10-year prison term for keeping a firearm in an improper place and two counts of first-degree terroristic threatening, Hicks said.

He also has 1994 convictions for third-degree promotion of a dangerous drug and a liquor violation.

Deputy Public Defender Brad Sova objected to the “exhaustive, cumulative recitation of my client’s criminal history,” going back 20 years “just to place him in a bad light.”

Sova said the current allegations against Burkhart didn’t amount to a serious crime.

“We have my client taunting a police officer. Taunting is not a serious crime,” Sova said. “It may be obnoxious. It may be something that the officer doesn’t like.”

Burkhart is accused of punching the woman once outside the bar, he said.

“It’s not the level of serious allegations that entails denying bail,” Sova said.

Burkhart was raised on Maui and his most recent criminal conviction occurred nearly a decade ago, he said.

Burkhart’s bail had been set at $100,000.

In ordering Tuesday that Burkhart be held without bail, Judge Blaine Kobayashi cited the serious charges against Burkhart and his extensive criminal record, including numerous felony convictions.

Kobayashi said there was a serious risk that Burkhart would pose a danger to the community and that he would be involved in further criminal activity.

Police records show Burkhart was arrested Friday. A 34-year-old man who had been in the bar with Burkhart also was arrested and released pending further investigation, police records show.

* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at lfujimoto@mauinews.com.

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