Judge dismisses charges against TMT protesters arrested in 2019

Hilo District Judge Kanani Laubach on Friday dismissed obstruction charges against the remaining defendants who were among 38 arrested or cited on July 17, 2019, during peaceful protests of the Thirty Millimeter Telescope on Maunakea Access Road.

Those arrested were: Walter Ritte, Loretta Ritte, Abel Lui, Liko-o-Kalani Martin, Deborah Lee, Maxine Kahaulelio, Kelii Ioane, Raynette Robinson, Marie Alohalani Brown, Kaliko Lehua Kanaele, James Naniole, James Albertini, Richard L. Deleon, Renee Price, Pualani Kanakaole Kanahele, Daniel Li, Patricia Green, William K. Freitas, Tomas Belsky, Ana Kahoopii, Daycia-Dee Chun, Flora Hookano, Desmon Haumea, Linda Leilani Lindsey-Kaapuni, Edleen Peleiholani, Gene Burke, Luana Neff, Carmen Hulu Lindsey, Deena Oana-Hurwitz, Noenoe Wong-Wilson, Damian Trask, Mililani Trask, Mahea Kalima, Donna Leong, Haloley Reese, Sharol Awai, John Turalde and Alika Desha.


Ages and hometowns of those arrested were not provided by the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, but the majority are considered to be kupuna, or elders.

They were among thousands protesting the planned construction of the $2.4 billion next-generation telescope on Hawaii’s highest peak, a site some Hawaiians consider to be sacred.

The findings of fact and conclusions of law signed and filed by Laubach state the amended complaints in the case are defective as they contain only the signature of the prosecutor and not a signed, sworn affidavit of the complainant, which would be the officer who initially cited and/or arrested the protesters. Those requirements were upheld by the Hawaii Supreme Court in the 2021 case of Thompson v. Hawaii.

The judge scheduled a hearing for April 29 to decide whether the dismissals would be without prejudice, which would allow prosecutors to refile charges, or with prejudice, which would not allow refiling of the charges.

Opponents of the proposed observatory, who refer to themselves as “kia‘i,” or protectors of the mountain, successfully blockaded the road and maintained a presence at its intersection with Daniel K. Inouye Highway until the novel coronavirus pandemic hit Hawaii.

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