Woman connected to hotel assault case acquitted

  • Mahealani Kanehailua

KAILUA-KONA — A 3rd Circuit Court judge acquitted one of the individuals charged in connection to the beating of a hotel security guard in September.

On Tuesday, Mahealani Kanehailua, of Kona, appeared before Judge Melvin Fujino for bench trial on a charge of attempted first-degree hindering prosecution stemming from the Sept. 17 incident at the Kona Seaside Hotel in downtown Kailua-Kona. The early morning incident critically injured a 63-year-old security guard who remains hospitalized on the mainland.

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Also charged in the case are Wesley Samoa, of Kona, as well as Natisha Tautalatasi and Lama Lauvao, both of Honolulu. The three are accused of attempted second-degree murder.

Hotel video surveillance of the incident shows Samoa, Tautalatasi and Lauvao along with Kanehailua chatting outside the hotel when a security guard, later identified as John Kanui, pulls up in a golf cart.

After what appeared to be an exchange of words, the video shows Samoa, Tautalatasi and Lauvao pull Kanui out of the cart and repeatedly kick and punch him in the head, back and stomach.

While Kanehailua didn’t participate in the assault, prosecutors argued Tuesday, she tried to maneuver her companions toward a vehicle to leave the area after the attack started. She also picked up Lauvao’s backpack and Tautalatasi’s jacket from the ground during the incident.

The state called seven witnesses and played security footage in its entirety. After the state rested its case, the defense motioned for a judgment of acquittal.

“We argued the video speaks for itself,” said Deputy Prosecutor Chase Murray. “Ultimately, the judge disagreed.”

Murray added it seemed to be an issue of intent.

“The office of the prosecuting attorney respectfully disagrees with the court’s decision today and is disappointed,” prosecutor’s stated. “At this juncture the state will continue to prepare for the related cases.”

Georgette Yaindl, who represented Kanehailua, was happy with Tuesday’s outcome.

“I’m happy for my client and her family,” she said.

Deputy Prosecutor Sheri Lawson will be prosecuting the joint case against Samoa, Tautalatasi and Lauvao on June 12.

The case has been mired with issues as all defense counselors have requested to withdraw from their clients because of a breakdown in communication and irreconcilable differences.

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Fujino granted Samoa new counsel as the family hired Honolulu attorney Barry L. Sooalo. The judge denied defense attorney Andrew Kennedy’s motion to withdraw from Lauvao. Defense attorney William Reece filed a motion to withdraw from Tautalatasi, which he later rescinded.

Fujino has also denied the defense request to try the defendants separately and to move the location of the trial.

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