LIHUE — With dozens of supporters behind him, Noa Mau-Espirito asked why his accusers were not in court.
“Why is he or she not here?” he said. “Therefore, I’m the only person here with a valid claim.”
On Wednesday, Mau- Espirito and his co-defendant, Charles Hepa, appeared before District Court Judge Michael Soong for a hearing on a motion they filed regarding personal and subject matter jurisdiction.
The men, who plan to represent themselves during court proceedings, say the court lacks jurisdiction on both cases.
Soong denied the motion during the 20-minute hearing.
After reviewing Hawaii Revised Statutes, in terms of subject matter, Hawaii courts have the authority to hear cases on law infractions that occur in all territorial limits in the state, he said.
Additionally, the district court has jurisdiction because it’s a criminal matter, Soong said.
“For personal jurisdiction — this is a subject that has come up several times. The state of Hawaii is now a lawful government and not exempt from state laws,” Soong said.
He told Mau-Espirito, 25, and Hepa they have the right to retain the services of an attorney.
“You have said you don’t want counsel, but every time you come here, I’m going to remind you,” Soong said.
Mau-Espirito, who claims to be a seventh- generation descendant of King Kaumualii, and Hepa, who claims right to land by right of Royal Hawaiian Patent, are at the center of a dispute to determine rightful ownership of 17 acres of Wailua within the Coco Palms property.
The state filed the motion against Mau-Espirito and Hepa, claiming the defendants have been trespassing since March 17. Mau-Espirito said he’s been living on the Wailua property since spring 2016.
The men and a group of about 25 others continue to live on the property.
Tyler Greene and Chad Waters, owners of Coco Palms Hui, have been trying to restore Coco Palms since 2012. The resort closed in 1992 after it was damaged by Hurricane Iniki.
Greene previously told The Garden Island there were trespassers at Coco Palms and he was working with the county prosecutor’s office on the matter.
The $3.5 million selective demolition process began in June. By spring 2018 crews are expected to start Phase II, the renovation and reconstruction of Coco Palms.
The $175 million project will have 350 rooms, 12,000 square feet of retail space, three restaurants, leisure areas and a four-acre cultural center.
Their joint trial is scheduled for Aug. 24. Soong told them to bring any documents they have to the courthouse.
“You asked where your accusers were. The state will have the burden of proof at trial,” he said.