Telescope protester’s trial put on hold

Motion filed in Hawaiian seeking dismissal for lack of a speedy trial

Samuel Kaleikoa Kaeo holds up a motion to dismiss his case Wednesday in District Court. Kaeo is on trial for multiple charges stemming from a protest Aug. 2 against the construction of the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope at the Haleakala summit. The Maui News / CHRIS SUGIDONO photos

WAILUKU — The trial for a Haleakala telescope protester was put on hold Wednesday after he submitted a motion written in Hawaiian asking a judge to dismiss his case because his rights to a speedy trial were violated.

Samuel Kaleikoa Kaeo of Kula submitted his motion to Judge Kelsey Kawano before the start of his trial in Wailuku District Court. Kawano said the motion was written primarily in Hawaiian and would need to be translated to English before he could make a ruling.

“Mr. Kaeo, I’m greatly troubled because we were supposed to proceed with trial today,” Kawano said. “I’m informed that a prior oral motion to dismiss for violation to your right of a speedy trial was not entertained, and you were instructed to file a written motion. It puts me in the position to place this before the trial. Your motion needs to be resolved before we start the trial.”

Kaeo, who is representing himself, last appeared in court in March after he was granted an interpreter for his trial. At the hearing, he asked Judge Douglas Sameshima to dismiss his case because more than six months had passed since his arrest, but Sameshima told him he must file a motion to the court.

“This question was raised two months ago, with the same intent, which is to say six months have passed and today is nearly 10 months from the time I was arrested,” Kaeo said through an interpreter in court. “This has been raised in front of a judge some months ago regarding this question. The judge said to prepare and I did prepare two months ago. Therefore, it’s not me who postponed. I told the judge I was ready. To me this is a civil right.”

Judge Kelsey Kawano speaks Wednesday morning during a trial in District Court.

Kaeo was among six protesters arrested in the early-morning hours Aug. 2 as dozens of protesters gathered at Kula Highway and Old Haleakala Highway to confront a large vehicle convoy carrying equipment for construction of the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope at the Haleakala summit.

He has pleaded not guilty to disorderly conduct, obstructing a highway and refusing to comply with a police officer’s order.

Kawano asked Kaeo’s interpreter, Kiope Raymond, if he could translate the document for the court. Raymond said the motion was written in specialized legal language and that he could only provide a “layman’s understanding.”

“I can’t say I would be doing the court or Mr. Kaeo the best of my ability,” Raymond said. “I have no legal background.”

Deputy Prosecutor Terence Herndon told the court that he would respond to the motion in writing after it has been translated to English. He added that there are excludable periods in the case that comply with the defendant’s right to a speedy trial.

About 40 supporters of Samuel Kaleikoa Kaeo hold signs Wednesday morning on Main Street.

Kawano ordered that the translation be completed by June 12 and the state’s opposition due by June 26. Both parties will have a chance for further arguments and a decision on the motion on July 11, with possible trial setting.

“I’m not inclined to deal with this in a cavalier fashion,” Kawano said. “I’m inclined to have this document translated to English.”

* Chris Sugidono can be reached at csugidono@mauinews.com.

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