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'Bumpy' Kanahele gets minimum term

He sets his sights on turning 150,000 native Hawaiians into a voting bloc

Tuesday, February 3, 1998
Honolulu Star-Bulletin

By Linda Hosek

Dennis "Bumpy" Kanahele isn't focusing on the two weeks he will spend in federal prison as part of his sentence for interfering with a federal agent in 1994.

He's thinking about turning 150,000 native Hawaiians into a voting bloc. About running as a trustee for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.

About working within the system, a significant shift for a man who 11 years ago went to prison for assaulting a police officer on behalf of sovereignty and four years ago used his body to block a deputy U.S. marshal from arresting a native Hawaiian fugitive.

"Thank God we have a chance right now," he said yesterday to media and supporters after a federal judge sentenced him to eight months in prison, the minimum term under the federal guidelines for his felony offense.

U.S. District Judge Helen Gillmor rejected the government's plea for the maximum of 14 months, saying there was no point to prolonging time behind bars for a man who had changed and knew how to change others through free speech.

"I do believe Mr. Kanahele has come to understand where the power lies," Gillmor said before at least 50 Kanahele supporters. "I believe he is sincere. He has come forward and taken responsibility for his actions." Gillmor split his term between four months in prison and four months at home, giving him credit for about four months he served after he was indicted Aug. 2, 1995.

Michael Green, Kanahele's attorney, estimated that his client would serve about two weeks in prison when he reports Monday.

"It was the right sentence and it took a lot of courage," Green said, adding that Kanahele could do a lot of good.

Gillmor also sentenced Kanahele to pay a $500 fine and wear electric-monitoring equipment during home detention.

A board member of Waimanalo Health Center and Waimanalo Neighborhood Board, Kanahele agreed that his sentence was fair. He said he planned to abide by laws and return to federal court only on the other side: to file appeals.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Les Osborne declined comment about Kanahele's minimum term.

He said in court that Kanahele had endangered the community in 1994 when he interfered with law enforcement officers: "If police had drawn their guns, who knows what would have happened?"

Osborne also said the government has spent $20,000 to pursue the fugitive who slipped from federal agents in the 1994 incident.

Regarding the future, Kanahele said he may step down as the leader of the Nation of Hawaii in an effort to elevate the elders into positions of authority.

He said the "chance" he feels is the chance for native Hawaiians to govern themselves. He also said many have become educated about politics and want to participate, adding: "We might have a true democratic process after all."

Kanahele supporters performed a chant outside federal court, stressing unity, said Mahealani Martin, a Big Island resident who came to Oahu for Kanahele's sentencing.

Kanahele pleaded guilty Sept. 12 to interfering with a deputy U.S. marshal trying to arrest federal fugitive Nathan Brown as he fled Kanahele's Waimanalo home March 16, 1994.

The government dropped two other charges alleging that Kanahele interfered with a Honolulu police officer trying to arrest Brown on Jan. 27, 1994, and that he harbored Brown as a fugitive.

Brown was convicted of filing false taxes to protest the government claiming native Hawaiian land.

1998 Honolulu Star-Bulletin
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