By Mark Matsunaga
Advertiser Staff Writer
The federal trial of Dennis "Bumpy" Kanahele, head of the self-proclaimed Nation of Hawaii, has drawn a wide range of Hawaiians to the koa-paneled courtroom of U.S. District Judge Helen Gillmor.
In addition to several dozen of Kanahele's relatives and closest supporters, yesterday's visitors to the fourth floor of the Prince Kuhio Federal Building included comedian Bu La`ia, showed up without his costume. "I coulda worn my stuff, but that woulda been too much," he said.
As a member of the "nation of Hawai`i" he said he supports all sovereignty efforts. He has a special link to Kanahele, however, because Hill said he "lived on the beach for a week" during the 1993-94 occupation of Makapuu and Kaupo by Kanahele's supporters.
Kanahele is charged with harboring a federal fugitive - convicted Hawaiian tax protester Nathan Brown - and interfering with two 1994 attempts to arrest Brown, who's still at large.
Hill said he hoped to get a chance to talk with Kanahele. "I'm trying to get `em all together," Hill said of the various sovereignty efforts.
OHA trustee Samuel Kealoha and sovereignty council member Olani Decker were also in the gallery, as concerned Hawaiians.
After listening to some testimony, Decker said of the federal case against Kanahele, "I think it's a set-up. ...They think of him as a potential threat."
Hank Fergerstrom, Kona area representative for Kanahele's nation, said, "The government's wasting a lot of time and a lot of money on this case."
Fergerstrom, who gave up a career as a computer technician to embrace his Hawaiian culture, came to Honolulu from Kona to see the trial.
He's a member of Na Koa O Puukohola Heiau on the Big Island. The malo-clad warriors frequently grace Hawaiian events and are devoted to traditional Hawaiian culture.
Fergerstrom said, "If you're going to stand up and say you're a warrior, you have to go to the battle front."
As they did on the first day of trial Thursday, about a dozen members of the Nation of Ku picketed in front of the courthouse steps, calling for Kanahele to be freed.
Their, leader, A`o Pohaku Rodenhurst, said, "This court has no right to judge a sovereign."
Testimony yesterday afternoon came from Deputy U.S. Marshal Lawrence Tice. He described a March 16, 1994, incident in front of Kanahele's Hawaiian homestead house in Waimanalo, which he and Deputy Marshal Charles Markle had staked out in hopes of catching Brown.
Questioned by Assistant U.S. Attorney Les Osborne, Tice gave this account:
Brown arrived in a van driven by Kanahele about 11:30 a.m. Tice and Markle - in plain clothes - drove up, Tice got out and yelled at Brown to stop.
Brown squeezed past a gate, Tice ran toward him and got within a foot, only to have Kanahele bump into him and block his way. They scuffled. An unidentified man appeared and held Tice's arms.
Tice saw Brown run through Kanahele's carport and toward the back of the lot. More Kanahele supporters appeared. Their numbers reached 20 or 30 at one point.
Tice and Markle were eventually allowed onto the property, but Brown was long gone by then.
Kanahele's attorney, Hayden Aluli, tried to get Tice to admit that Kanahele couldn't have known Tice was a U.S. marshal and that Kanahele was just protecting his property against a non Hawaiian stranger.
But Tice said, "I didn't see him as protecting his property. I saw him as stopping me."
The trial continues today.
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