A U.S. judge sentenced two Native Hawaiian men to a years-long sentence in prison following a federal hate crime prosecution alleging a racially motivated attack against a White man in 2014.
Kaulana Alo-Kaonohi and Levi Aki Jr. reportedly struck Chris Kunzelman with a shovel, punched and kicked him after he moved into their Maui village in 2014, Hawaii News Now reported.
The pair was caught on camera storming onto Kunzelman’s property and demanded that he leave because of the color of his skin.
Kunzelman suffered a concussion and broken ribs. A jury ruled that race was a factor of the crime and found the pair guilty of hate crimes back in November, according to Hawaii News Now.
This Thursday, U.S. District Judge J. Michael Seabright sentenced Kaulana Alo-Kaonohi and Levi Aki Jr. to more than six years and four years in prison respectively, The Washington Post reported.
“You were racist on that day,” Seabright said at Alo-Kaonohi’s sentencing hearing.
Prosecutors of the case presented a video of the incident in which Alo-Kaonohi and Aki Jr. told Kunzelman that “No white man is ever going to live here” and that Kunzelman was a “typical ‘haole’ thinking he owning everything … trying to change things up in Kahakuloa.”
“Haole” is a Hawaiian word that refers to foreigners and White people, which Kunzelman testified that the word was used in a derogatory way.
“When you watch the video … there was almost like enthusiasm,” Seabright said. “Maybe that’s what’s so disturbing about this case.”
Kunzelman said in court on Thursday that the pair “brutally attacked me out of hate for the color of my skin” and left him with emotional and psychological damage.
The defense argued that the pair was angered by Kunzelman’s sense of entitlement rather than race, according to The Washington Post.
“There’s not going to really be any dispute that what he did was wrong,” Craig Jerome, a federal defender representing Alo-Kaonohi, told the jury in November. “But he didn’t do any of those things because of Mr. Kunzelman’s race. It was Mr. Kunzelman’s behavior. It was his perceived disrespect. It was his attitude.”
Reportedly, local lawyers believe this is the first time the U.S. has prosecuted Native Hawaiians for hate crimes, according to NPR.
AsAmNews is published by the non-profit, Asian American Media Inc. Follow us on Facebook, X, Instagram, TikTok and YouTube. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation to support our efforts to produce diverse content about the AAPI communities. We are supported in part by funding provided by the State of California, administered by the California State Library in partnership with the California Department of Social Services and the California Commission on Asian and Pacific Islander American Affairs as part of the Stop the Hate program. To report a hate incident or hate crime and get support, go to CA vs Hate.