Leilani Estates man pleads guilty to federal charge

  • John William "Bill" Hubbard, left, appears June 4 in Hilo District Court with Deputy Public Defender Michael Ebesugawa. (JOHN BURNETT/Tribune-Herald)

KAILUA-KONA — A Leilani Estates man accused of firing a weapon at a lava evacuee during the Kilauea eruption last year has pleaded guilty to the charge leveled against him in federal court.

John William Hubbard was charged in U.S. District Court in Honolulu with being a felon in possession of a firearm. The 61-year-old also faces several other weapon-related charges and terroristic threatening in 3rd Circuit Court.

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On Monday, Hubbard pleaded guilty as charged in federal court to possession of a firearm and ammunition as a convicted felon. In return for his guilty plea, the government agreed to recommend that the sentence given would be served concurrently with any sentence he receives in the state case.

According to court documents, Hubbard faces up to 10 years of prison with a fine up to $250,000 and a term of supervised release up to three years.

Charges stem from an incident in Puna on May 29, 2018, during the Kilauea eruption. A video on social media captured Hubbard threatening five people and firing multiple gunshots in the area.

One of victims in the reported May incident, a 32-year-old man from Leilani Estates, told police that he and several acquaintances were surveying the area of his former residence that had been taken by lava when a man, later identified as Hubbard, approached them in a pickup truck.

The suspect allegedly assaulted, then pointed a firearm at the victim and his group, demanding they immediately leave the area. During the argument, the suspect fired several gunshots from a handgun.

According to federal court documents filed Monday, Hubbard admitted the weapon he possessed during the incident was a Colt .38 Special caliber revolver.

“However, the defendant asserts that he no longer possesses the firearm and that it was destroyed by the lava flow on the Big Island,” court documents state.

The state has charged the 61-year-old with five counts of first-degree terroristic threatening, two counts of first-degree reckless endangerment, place to keep pistol or revolver, first-degree robbery and carrying a firearm in commission of a separate felony.

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Hubbard pleaded not guilty in Hilo District Court to the charges on June 19, 2018. Both circuit judges in Hilo, Greg Nakamura and Henry Nakamoto, recused themselves from hearing the case, perhaps because Hubbard’s wife is a state Judiciary employee in Hilo. His state case was moved to Kona where Judge Melvin Fujino has been hearing the case.

On Feb. 20, Fujino granted a continuance on the matter relating to a motion to advance the state’s trial date. Hubbard is scheduled to appear in 3rd Circuit Court Friday on the matter. Jury trial is currently scheduled for April 30.

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