Guilty verdict in robbery, assault of German visitor

LIHU‘E — A jury’s guilty verdict Tuesday in 5th Circuit Court concludes matters involving three defendants in a second-degree robbery and assault case in Nawiliwili in April of last year.

The trial of Kekoa J.K. Krueger lasted all last week before the jury went into deliberation Monday afternoon. The verdict was read Tuesday at 12:15 p.m. before presiding Judge Kathleen N. A. Watanabe.

Krueger was accused of participating in an April 6, 2011 robbery and assault of a visitor, Theodore Henke. It occurred after Henke left a Nawiliwili tavern at closing time with the incident captured on video in front of a nearby surf shop sometime just before 3 a.m.

Henke, a German citizen, was not present for the trial.

County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Melinda Mendes said Krueger was a full participant. She said he and another defendant used force in the course of the robbery when the victim attempted to defend himself.

Defense attorney Emmanuel Guerrero said it was a case of mistaken identity and that a key witness had a motive to implicate Krueger.

Krueger, 33, of Hanapepe, was arrested May 3, 2011 and initially charged with first-degree robbery, first-degree assault. He was released on bail but arrested six days later on misdemeanor charges of family or household member abuse, third-degree assault and felony kidnapping.

Watanabe re-scheduled the second charges for trial on Sept. 10.

Approximately seven witnesses testified in the robbery case including police officers and co-defendants in the case.

Thomas Hemmingway, M.D., an emergency medicine physician at Wilcox Memorial Hospital, testified that the 53 year-old Henke was brought in by ambulance with a two-inch scalp laceration that required seven staple sutures. He said the man was also treated for abrasions to the arms and legs.

Mendes said it was fortunate for seven minutes of video surveillance inside the tavern before it closed at 2 a.m., and outside the surf shop around 3 a.m. She said it clearly showed Henke running before Lurguial Counts, a co-defendant in the incident, sent him head first into a large wooden planter.

Despite his injury Mendes said Henke fought off the attempt to take his wallet. She said Krueger comes into the video to hold Henke until Counts took his wallet and continued kicking him.

Guerrero had a different picture of Henke, who he said was looking for a good time. He ended up in a fight, he said, and police officers testified that Henke had been drinking.

Police used the video to identify and arrest Counts, Krueger and Niquitta Kilmer, the third co-defendant in the case. The three each faced charges of first-degree robbery, assault and theft of credit card.

Kilmer’s trial was to begin May 14. However, she was granted immunity from prosecution for testifying against Krueger.

Mendes said Kilmer corroborated the video evidence that Henke was set up for the robbery after his male traveling companion left the bar.

Guerrero said the prosecution offered a deal to someone with a demonstrated motive in statements to police and in court testimony.

Kilmer didn’t have a trial, he said. She walked free Thursday afternoon.

Michael Soong represented Kilmer. Her case was severed from the other defendants in August.

Krueger will be sentenced on one felony and misdemeanor charge on Aug. 22. He faces a maximum sentence of 10 years incarceration with a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment of six years and eight months, based upon having two separate prior felony convictions.

Counts, 36, changed his plea to guilty at his trial hearing on May 7, to a reduced count of second-degree robbery and felony credit card theft. The state dismissed a first-degree assault charge.

Counts will be sentenced on the two felony convictions on Aug. 22. He is represented by state Deputy Public Defender Stephanie Sato.

• Tom LaVenture, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 224) or tlaventure@thegardenisland.com.

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