A member of the Nation of Hawaii convicted of driving without no-fault insurance was ordered to perform 200 hours of community service, and was allowed to fulfill his sentence with the sovereignty group.
Circuit Judge Marie Milks said she felt the sentence imposed last year on Maltbie Napoleon was appropriate, even though group members have openly defied traffic laws and contend the state's judicial system has no authority over them.
She sid the idea of letting him do the community service with the Nation of Hawaii emerged during negotiations leading to a plea agreement with prosecutors, with Napoleon respectful stating he would continue his demand for a jury trial unless the recommendation was included.
"You take all the advantages and disadvantages, and one of the major disadvantages was, without resolution of the case, a jury trial would have been generated at some cost to the state," Milks said, describing herself as comfortable with the outcome.
But the city prosecutor's office made clear that the recommendation was entirely the judge's decision.
"If you are asking whether I think his sentence was a punishment, my answer is no," Prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro said in a statement.
Napoleon, attorney general with the group, was cited for five misdemeanor traffic violations, including driving without a seat belt or registration, in July 1990.
He pleaded no-contest to the insurance charge in July 1994, and prosecutors dropped the other counts against him.
According to court papers, he was fined $3,000, which was converted into community service. The papers include the notation that the service "can be done with the Hawaiian nation" and must be completed within a year.
The sentencing was raised during a seminar Saturday at the Nation of Hawaii's headquarters in Waimanalo.
Napoleon, 43, said he spent the time "building our country".
He said his request to be assigned to his group for the community service was an attempt to set a precedent, and that two other members subsequently got similar sentences.
"That's a recognition of the Nation of Hawaii," he said.
When asked if he felt there was no penalty because he was doing work he would have done normally, Napoleon said, "There wasn't really a crime anyway. If the state is illegal, then they're imposing illegal sentences. If it's illegal, do we have to participate? No. You don't have to participate with an illegal entity."
The group argues that a U.S. Apology in 1993 for the overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom 100 years earlier is a confession to a crime, and that the state and federal governments consequently are here illegally. It ratified its own constitution earlier this year. Courts have not upheld its claims.
Milks said she was not recognizing the group in a legal or diplomatic sense, but considered it a "valid recipient" for community service. The judge added she was impressed with and respected the depth of Napoleon's beliefs, and noted that prosecutors did not object to her recommendation.
"There are people involved, right, so you're serving people of the nation," she said. "I say fine, whether they're people of the nation of people of the state of Hawaii, you're going to serve people, and I'll honor that request. That basically is what it boiled down to."
Although Milks issued two bench warrants in the case when Napoleon failed to appear in court, she said he was admonished and eventually respected the judicial process enough to reach a compromise and enter his plea.
"Now, if he gets into trouble again, that would be for someone else to decide, another judge will have to deal with it and all the circumstances that comes with it," she said.
"But as far as the experience I had, everything was well-handled by both the state and the defendant."
The Judiciary confirmed that part-time District Judge Stanley Ling disqualified himself from hearing a Nation of Hawaii traffic case after being served with papers from the groups in April.
"It was the first time that the judge received such papers, and he thought it cited him personally, so he did recuse himself from that one particular case." said spokeswoman Marsha Kitagawa.
"Since then, he has not recused himself from any cases involving defendants claiming to be members of the Nation of Hawaii.
Sharon Miyashiro, administrative director of the courts, said judges are handling similar cases whether they are named in the papers or not.
Ling was one of the judges summoned by the Nation of Hawaii to appear before its supreme court to explain his "war crimes" against the Hawaiian people, according to Napoleon.
A bench warrant later was issued when he failed to appear.
"Mr. Ling has acknowledged the Hawaii government and shown the proper conduct by excusing himself from the bench in matters concerning Kanaka Maoli nationals," Napoleon wrote in a May letter to the Honolulu Police Department.
"Please inform all departments and personnel of Mr. Ling's conduct involving citizens of the Hawaii government."
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