LIHUE — Criminal trespass charges against the defendants in a civil trial over land in Wailua, where the Coco Palms Resort once stood, have been dismissed.
“The charges were dropped, for now, pending further actions at the site,” said Prosecuting Attorney for the County of Kauai, Justin Kollar. “It’s possible that new charges will be filed in the future, now that it has been judicially determined that the property owners have the right to possession of the premises.”
After closing arguments late last month, District Court Judge Michael Soong ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, ordering Noa Mau-Espirito and Kamu “Charles” Hepa off the land.
As of Friday, there are still a handful of people living on the disputed property.
In a statement to TGI, Toni Schwartz, spokesperson for the Hawaii Department of Public Safety, wrote, “The sheriff’s are working with the property owner and the Kauai Police Department on this matter.
“For safety and security reasons, we are not at this time free to discuss any strategies or other information related to enforcement action,” she wrote.
Kim Tamaoka, spokeswoman for the County of Kauai, said, “The state sheriffs have taken the lead on enforcing the writ of ejectment on this case. KPD has offered to assist at the sheriff’s request.”
During the trial, Mau-Espirito and Hepa filed a Quiet Title claim against Coco Palms Hui LLC, but according to Mau-Espirito, there’s no date set at this time for those proceedings.
Coco Palms Resort was damaged and shuttered after Hurricane Iniki in 1992. Throughout the years, several developers have attempted to restore the resort, but with no success.
Developers Chad Waters and Tyler Greene purchased the land through a special warranty deed from Prudential Insurance for $23 million. By spring 2018 crews were expected to start Phase II, the renovation and reconstruction of Coco Palms.
The $175 million project is expected to boast 350 rooms, 12,000 square feet of retail space, three restaurants, leisure areas and a four-acre cultural center.
Chad Waters declined to comment for this story.
Claiming rights to the land through genealogy, Hepa, Mau-Espirito and several other people, moved onto a portion of the property about a year ago.
During the trial, the defendants argued they had a right to the land because they were using it for cultural and religious practices. Soong disagreed, stating that how the defendants came to the land was more like a hostile takeover of it, instead of the right of entry.
The ejectment order was issued for 6 p.m. Jan. 28. Along with their supporters, Mau-Espirito and Hepa were expecting law enforcement to show up to remove them from the property.
Instead, a group of about 80 people participated in a ceremony at the entrance to the land, while others watched from across the street.