HONOLULU (KHON2) — “He’s not a racist.” That’s the message a local, Hawaiian family wants to share after two Maui men were found guilty of a hate crime Thursday afternoon in federal court.

“My brother is not a racist guy… Kahakuloa village is not a racist place,” said Kawehi Alo-Kaonohi.

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That’s what the Alo-Kaonohi ohana want people to know after Kaulana Alo-Kaonohi, Kawehi’s brother and Levi Aki Jr. were found guilty of a hate crime against a caucasian man.

Video of the altercation, which happened back in 2014 in Kahakuloa on Maui, was used in federal court as evidence.

The office of the U.S. Attorney for the District of Hawaii said the men committed a “racially motivated attack.”

According to prosecutors, the victim was moving into a house he’d purchased when Alo-Kaonohi and Aki threatened him saying he’d “go missing” if he didn’t leave.

Prosecutors said the men proceeded to berate and swear at the victim, at one point telling him “no white man is ever going to live here” before grabbing a shovel and severely beating him.

The victim lost consciousness and suffered a concussion and two broken ribs.

In a statement, U.S. Attorney for the District of Hawaii Clare Connors said:
“The jury’s verdict confirms that the rule of law serves to protect all persons in our community from vicious assaults, no matter the color of their skin,” and “When people commit violent crimes against someone out of hatred for the victim’s race, the Department of Justice will ensure they face criminal consequences in a court of law.”

Despite the guilty verdict, attorney Megan Kau, who was not directly involved with the case said, cases and convictions like this are rare.

“In my 20 years of experience in the criminal justice system, both as a deputy prosecuting attorney and a criminal defense attorney, I’ve never seen a hate crime brought against the defendant,” Kau explained.

According to United States Department of Justice statistics, there were just over 90 racially motivated hate crimes in Hawaii between 2018 and 2020 and even fewer other kinds of hate crimes.

Former State Attorney General Doug Chin said hate crimes are difficult to prove “because in order to show that somebody committed a criminal act with hate, you have to go inside their state of mind.”

“So what you have here is you have a situation where the federal prosecutors were saying that there were enough words and enough actions that were done that showed that these two men committed their crime with the state of mind that is requisite to prove a hate crime,” explained Chin.

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If convicted Alo-Kaonohi and Aki could face up to 10 years in prison. They are due back in court in March for sentencing.