LIHUE — A Kekaha man convicted of carrying a firearm while making threats at a Westside pavilion was sentenced to 15 months in jail and given probation on Wednesday in 5th Circuit Court.
Willis Kahanu Kauakahi Sr., 49, has a felony on his record which made it illegal to own or possess a firearm or ammunition. On Aug. 13, 2013, he was in possession of a revolver and made threats in the presence of at least one person.
Kauakahi was arrested and charged with four felony firearms charges and first-degree terroristic threatening. He pleaded no contest to one firearms charge, and an amended count of second-degree terroristic threatening on Sept. 24.
Judge Kathleen Watanabe said no matter which version of the story she believes, it was clear Kauakahi should not have been in possession of a firearm. He is familiar to the court with a history of violence and felony convictions dating back to 1983 with a poor compliance record on probation.
“You are no stranger to the criminal justice system,” Watanabe said.
The judge said the circumstances of this case do not make the 10-year prison sentence appropriate and instead placed the defendant in HOPE (Hawaii’s Opportunity Probation with Enforcement) for close supervision of high-risk offenders.
Court-appointed defense attorney Kai Lawrence said Kauakahi made a series of poor decisions but he was in fear for his safety and his family’s. The defendant was paranoid but sincere in believing he was acting to protect himself and his family, he added.
“He was not in a good place,” Lawrence said.
According to Lawrence, Kauakahi saw someone talking to his adult daughter and the tone of the conversation concerned him. Kauakahi searched a bag belonging to the man and discovered the revolver he believed was going to be used against himself and his daughter.
Kauakahi believes he never threatened anyone and afterward, he held onto the weapon when he encountered other people at the pavilion, Lawrence said. The charge was reduced to a second-degree terrorist threat in the plea agreement and the defendant agreed to the deal rather than go to trial.
Kauakahi told the court he was sorry he ever picked up the gun and he was sorry if he threatened anyone.
“I should have called 911,” Kauakahi said.
County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Melinda Mendes said the firearm was not loaded and Kauakahi had a round of ammunition in his shorts. It is not clear how the defendant came into possession of the handgun but the complaining witness said he sat in the pavilion with it and said, in so many words, “Don’t (mess) with me today.”
When police noticed that Kauakahi appeared to have been punched in the mouth, Mendes said the defendant told officers that someone at the pavilion struck him. This led to several people being detained until it was learned that someone from Kauakahi’s own family hit him for bringing all the trouble with the gun.
Kauakahi has already served 320 days in jail that will be credited toward his sentence.