Jail time for Maunakea spray-painter

  • “Stop D.U.” was spray-painted on a portable toilet on Maunakea. (Courtesy photo/University of Hawaii)

  • "Stop bombing" was spray-painted on a parking area on Maunakea. Courtesy of University of Hawaii.
  • “Stop bombing” was spray-painted on rocks in the Maunakea Ice Age Natural Area Reserve. (Courtesy photo/University of Hawaii)

WAIMEA — A Kalapana woman is headed to jail for failing to complete court-ordered community service stemming from a 2017 case of vandalism atop Maunakea.

Hope Louise Cermelj, who identified herself in court as Alohalani Hope Dietz Cermelj, was ordered to turn herself into Hawaii Community Correctional Center at 10 a.m. today to begin serving two days for not completing 100 community service hours as ordered for her role in desecrating with spray-paint the mountain held sacred by many.

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South Kohala District Court Judge Mahilani EK Hiatt handed down the incarceration Tuesday during a proof of compliance hearing.

It was the third such hearing since the 66-year-old was sentenced May 1 after pleading no contest to two petty misdemeanor counts fourth-degree criminal property damage in a deal meted with prosecutor’s that dropped a third charge of fourth-degree criminal property damage. At that time, she was ordered to pay $45.40 in restitution to Maunakea Observatories Support Services and perform 100 community service hours by Aug. 7.

Cermelj was not compliant with the order Aug. 7, having performed just 32 hours, but submitted a doctor’s note that leg surgery kept her from completing all of the hours. Heading into Tuesday’s hearing, Cermelj had not completed any additional hours, leaving a balance of 68 hours.

On Tuesday, Hiatt began to re-refer Cermelj to complete the remaining 68 hours. However, Aolani Mills, a program specialist with the Judiciary, stepped up to the counsel table, telling the judge the case dates to 2017 and Cermelj had already received continuances to complete the community service.

“I would recommend jail, ma’am,” Mills said. She later stated two days incarceration would suffice.

When Hiatt asked when Cermelj could begin serving the sentence, she told the judge, “No, I cannot. I have a dog attack, medications that I did not bring with me, so I’ll have to go to the hospital next door.”

The judge gave her until today.

“Do you not have in my file that there is a doctor’s excuse why I could not do hard labor community service? And I did call places to see if had any sit-down jobs — zero,” Cermelj countered.

Hiatt then proceeded to Cermelj’s second case on the calendar, a pretrial conference for simple trespass late last year in the Hamakua District, when Cermelj interrupted with “could you answer the question I’m asking you, ma’am, do you have all those documents?”

The judge responded: “I’m not answering your question, ma’am. I’m sentencing you to jail. Mittimus is going to issue, and that’s how it’s going to work there.”

After Hiatt set trial for January and closed the matter, Cermelj then tried to submit a photo of her wound to the court, and again asked the judge about the doctor’s note.

“No, your case is done,” the judge said as a sheriff’s deputy moved to escort Cermelj from the courtroom. “Thank you, sheriff.”

Cermelj, who ran unsuccessfully for the state House District 4 seat in 2012, was charged with criminal property damage after the graffiti was discovered in late April 2017.

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DLNR photos showed the words “stop bombing” spray-painted onto large boulders in the Maunakea Ice Age Natural Area Reserve. Along with the defaced rocks, summit area property managed by the University of Hawaii was also tagged.

After the incident, Cermelj, who considers herself a subject of the Hawaiian Kingdom, told Big Island newspapers she took full responsibility for the graffiti to asphalt and structures on Maunakea, but denied defacing rocks. She said she spray-painted the wordage on April 28, 2017, to protest military training after hearing explosions while near the summit.