By Mark Matsunaga
Advertiser Staff Writer
Dennis "Bumpy" Kanahele told a federal judge yesterday that he won't testify in his own defense and offered an explanation for the actions that led to criminal charges against him.
"As I stand before you, I still believe a grave injustice has been done to our people," the head of the self-proclaimed Nation of Hawaii told U.S. District Judge Helen Gillmor. The jury was not present.
Kanahele is charged with harboring federal fugitive Nathan Brown, a convicted tax protester, and thwarting two attempts to arrest Brown last year.
Kanahele claims the federal and state governments are illegally occupying Hawaii and that he was only exercising his native, sovereign rights.
He said yesterday he won't testify in his own behalf because Gillmor won't let him raise sovereignty arguments in his defense.
"My case is based on sovereignty," Kanahele, wearing a charcoal-gray suit, told Gillmor politely. "But there's a lot of elements that's not allowed in the courts....I understand the court's position."
He added, "I'll be lying if I do testify," a reference to his belief that the U.S. and state governments have no jurisdiction over him.
"And you don't want to lie," said the judge.
"No," said Kanahele.
The exchange came after Kanahele's attorney, Hayden Aluli, rested his case.
Witnesses for Gordon Kaaihue, a co-defendant on one charge, finished testifying later yesterday.
The case will go to the jury today, after closing arguments.
Aluli had planned to have U.S. Marshal Annette Kent testify yesterday. But he decided against it after drawing testimony from other witnesses about a June meeting between Kanahele and Kent.
After Aluli rested without calling Kanahele to the stand, Gillmor called Kanahele forward and asked him if he understood his rights to choose whether to testify or not.
Kanahele, who has been held without bail since his Aug. 2 arrest, spoke slowly. "If the governor had not picked me for the sovereignty commission, I would not be here today....I would not be challenging the United States."
Gillmor said she understood, but federal laws and rules require her to limit the trial to the specifics of the alleged crimes.
Then-Gov. John Waihee appointed Kanahele in 1993 to the state commission created to begin work on Hawaiian self-determination or sovereignty.
The commission brought an Illinois law professor, Francis Boyle, to Hawaii to speak on sovereignty soon after Congress passed a resolution apologizing for the U.S. role in the 1893 overthrow of the Hawaiian kingdom.
Boyle suggested that Hawaiians could reclaim sovereignty by simply declaring it. That moved Kanahele to quit the commission and declared an independent Nation of Hawaii.
Kanahele told Gillmor yesterday, "Professor Boyle's position is very important for my beliefs." But Gillmor declined to allow Aluli to call Boyle as a witness, saying it's irrelevant to the trial.
Attempts by Aluli and Kaaihue's attorney, Sidney Quintal, to raise sovereignty issues have drawn objections from assistant U.S. attorney Les Osborne and prompted many sidebar conferences with the judge out of the jury's earshot.
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