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Group occupying Coco Palms will continue to be on property

LIHUE — A motion that would have ordered two Hawaiians — who claim 17 acres of Wailua land as theirs via royal patent — to stay away from property was denied by a Fifth Circuit judge Wednesday.

Judge Michael Soong denied the motion, citing the ex parte to remove the defendants from Coco Palms property circumvents a civil process that would prove clear ownership of the property.

“I’m not making a determination that anybody is the owner of the property,” Soong said. “What I’m telling the parties is there’s not enough information at this point to make that determination.”

The state filed the motion against Noa Mau-Espirito and Charles Hepa, claiming the defendants have been trespassing since March 17.

But in an earlier interview, Mau-Espirito said he claimed the Wailua property in spring 2016.

Mau-Espirito, who says he is a descendant of King Kaumualii, and a group of about 25 of his formerly homeless family members, continue to live on Coco Palms property.

“According to the tax map key, which is maintained by the state and the county of Kauai, it does list the properties are owned by Coco Palms Hui LLC,” said Ashley Uyeno-Lee, district prosecuting attorney. “According to the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs the Business Registration Division, it does list Mr. Chad Waters and Mr. Tyler Greene as managers.”

Soong pointed out the inaccuracies of tax map keys.

“There are transactions that occur that are not updated immediately,” he said. “Title report is normally the most accurate to get title. At least somebody would do an actual title search.”

Mau-Espirito told the court the ex parte motion would be a violation.

“In order for that to happen, title over the property would have to be confirmed. This court is a limited court to decide title issue in Hawaii,” he said. “In order for that to be legal, we need to clear the title issue. The title of issue would have to be confirmed first before they can ex parte me from the property.”

Soong said the proper course of action would be for the complainants to file a civil ejectment action, where the parties are served and noticed and the case is decided on merits.

“To some extent, at least (Mau-Espirito and Hepa) submitted actual deeds. I’m not saying they are the owners. That’s the issue in defense of the trespassing,” he said. “I’m not going to do an ex parte preceding that circumvents a civil process.”

Earlier, a motion to dismiss the trespassing charge based on jurisdiction was moved to June 28.

Based on 70 pages of paperwork Mau-Espirito and Hepa submitted to the court that argues they are the owners of the Wailua property, Soong wants to give the state an opportunity to file a response.

“Because this is a trespass case, in order to determine whether somebody is trespassing, title has to be established,” Soong said.

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