Coco Palms hearing erupts into court chaos

  • Bethany Freudenthal / The Garden Island

    Punohu Kekaualua, second from right, talks to sheriff’s deputies about what is happening after hearing his mother Debra Kekaualua screaming behind the closed doors of the state courtroom Friday.

LIHUE — In a crowded courtroom Friday, proceedings continued in a civil case between a group of Native Hawaiians who say they rightfully own 17-acres of land in Wailua and a development company that wants to build a $175 million resort where Coco Palms once stood.

Defendant Noa Mau-Espirito took the stand and presented pages of evidence to prove his family rightfully owns the contested land and that he has the right to be there.

One piece of evidence Mau-Espirito presented was a County of Kauai owner parcel information document, which he told the court, shows two different owners of the property.

“How can this place have never had these records until I went and occupied my family’s property?” Mau-Espirito said.

The document, Mau-Espirito said, also shows illegal actions by the county.

“Look at the records of property value. They dropped it from $2.8 million to $7,600,” Mau-Espirito said.

The document, argued Wayne Nasser, attorney for the plaintiffs, was not self-authenticating. He said in order to be valid, it had to be certified, proving that the information within the document is correct.

Mau-Espirito objected, because the document he was presenting came directly from the county.

“How can this not be related to the matter if your judgment is based on ownership of this property? This is showing the legalities of the ownership of the property. For them to object me, they’ve got to prove ownership,” Mau-Espirito said.

District Judge Michael Soong sustained the objection, stating the document wasn’t authenticated, certified or relevant to the matter at hand.

“As I indicated to you, this court is not going to take evidence of title. If title is in question, title will have to be decided in circuit court,” Soong said.

Coco Palms Hui developer Chad Waters didn’t speak during the proceeding. His partner, Tyler Greene, was not present.

The two men have been trying to restore Coco Palms since 2012. The resort closed in 1992 after it was damaged by Hurricane Iniki.

During public hearings on the Coco Palms restoration project, and decades prior as it sat shuttered, no one claimed land ownership.

The $3.5 million selective demolition process began in June. Crews were initially expected to start Phase II, the renovation and reconstruction of Coco Palms, in the spring of 2018. The project will boast 350 rooms, 12,000 square feet of retail space, three restaurants, leisure areas and a four-acre cultural center.

This court, Soong said, is there to decide who has an interest in possessing the property. Once the ruling is made they’ll no longer be able to take evidence on the matter. The title issue will have to be tried in circuit court.

“How are you going to eject somebody without determining the title of ownership? It says right here, ownership must be determined,” Mau-Espirito said.

The defendants, Soong said, can appeal any decision the court makes, but maintained that the owner parcel information document would not be submitted as evidence.

About 25 people watched the proceedings, testy at times, which lasted about six hours total.

As Mau-Espirito presented his second piece of evidence, tax receipts and records of when he paid taxes on the property, two individuals watching the trial were told to leave the courtroom due to disrupting the proceedings.

“The right thing to do would be move it to the first circuit soon. Don’t be fair and unjust to the Kanaka. Kanaka Maoli,” said Punohu Kekaualua.

“This is not America,” said Debra Kekaualua as they were both escorted out of the courtroom by the bailiff.

During a short recess after the outburst, Bailiff Lou Jeal explained to the crowd that they were there as observers, not participants. There was continued disturbance between the Kekaualuas and Jeal, who attempted to physically remove the 70-year-old woman from the courtroom.

Soong continued the trial to Jan. 5.

  1. Harry Oyama December 30, 2017 8:47 am Reply

    The “laws” and legal court system is based on deceit, lies and stolen lands both of native American Indians and Hawaiians in order to legitimize the continuance of this abuse towards those claiming their rightful presence, which was always there before the white men came in conquest. Just another form of genocide to exterminate the Hawaiians.

  2. Manawai December 30, 2017 9:05 am Reply

    The problem is that these folks have no legal representation or assistance so their knowledge of how to correctly and productively prosecute their beliefs is non-existent. If these folks have any case at all, the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation would be right there assisting them.

  3. uncleaina December 30, 2017 9:30 am Reply

    Ah yes my favorite German – Debra K. If you read the TGI comments you’ll know her and just how rational and thought-provoking her arguments are. She is not native Hawaiian at all – while doing a great disservice to those who are. Seriously guys, you need to unhitch yourselves from this ranting woman. I’ve tried to give her the benefit of doubt but all she does is live in a safe home in a safe neighborhood; uses all the roads and infrastructure we have here – then declare in her most angry and hateful voice how “this is not America”. Well Debra you are welcome to hop on the next plane and leave because your German heritage has no more claim to native Hawaiian’s land than a tourist straight off the plane from Munich.

  4. Sunrise_blue December 30, 2017 4:40 pm Reply

    Alrights Debra! Cool…

  5. Sunrise_blue December 30, 2017 5:15 pm Reply

    1874? When was it owned by their ancestors?

  6. Sunrise_blue December 30, 2017 5:27 pm Reply

    Any will left by the late estate? Queen Ruth. Any evidence like that would prove they owned the land. Do they have it on hand? Bishop Estate trustee.

  7. Sunrise_blue December 30, 2017 5:40 pm Reply

    Honestly, I never heard of County of Kaua’i. Now this?


  8. Sunrise_blue December 30, 2017 6:24 pm Reply

    I like hula too. So I’m giving the Hawaiians that much. Culture.

  9. Sunrise_blue December 30, 2017 6:54 pm Reply

    A lot of perverts in county council. That is why. Mayor too.

  10. Lu Lutoo December 31, 2017 2:58 pm Reply

    Waste of taxpayer money again, and again with these clowns. Was Deb wearing her yellow wig and red nose?

  11. Jesus Disciple January 2, 2018 9:18 am Reply

    Noa is of Chinese heritage and claims the ancestral rights to Land of the late King Kaumualii of Kauai, in which he has NO genetic ties to. He is born on Oahu from his not so mentally sane father and a mother who tirelessly supports him til this day. Any court records and genealogical land titles relative to Coco Palms will not be respectfully matched with the genealogical records presented by Noa Mau-Espiritu.
    -John 1:5 The light shines in the darkness. But the darkness has not overcome the light.

  12. mason January 3, 2018 8:15 am Reply

    This is not fighting for one’s rights or against an occupation. It is ENTERTAINMENT! These unemployed takers have nothing better or productive to do but to get buzzed, go make trouble and hopefully get their faces in the newspaper. This is ALL they have in life. Sad. Using the tactics they espouse, they know they will accomplish nothing but a little notoriety within their small community and maybe get a few outsiders like Cowden to pander to them. There are Native Hawaiians on Oahu who are seriously working via the legal system to right the wrongs they perceive were perpetrated on them, but that’s not entertaining for this bunch. Yawn…..zzzz.

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