By JOHN BURNETT
Tribune-Herald staff writer
Emotions boiled over as family and friends of a homicide victim couldn’t contain themselves while the accused killer was arraigned Wednesday in Hilo Circuit Court.
Seon Keoni Aki, 44, of Nanawale Estates pleaded not guilty to charges stemming from the fatal shooting on May 20 of his next-door neighbor, 40-year-old Mateo. D. Balinbin Jr., at Balinbin’s Maui Street home. Police say Balinbin, aka “Braddah Boy,” was killed by a single gunshot to the head.
As Deputy Public Defender Jennifer Wharton entered a not guilty plea for Aki, one man blurted out, “Just give him the death sentence, already,” in a loud voice.
A woman, visibly angry, rose to her feet and left the courtroom. On her way out, she exclaimed: “Now he can continue to breathe, even though he shot my son!”
Hilo Circuit Judge Glenn Hara ordered Aki to appear for trial Nov. 4 at 8:30 a.m. Deputy Prosecutor Shannon Kagawa estimated that the trial would take four weeks. A six-count indictment dated Sept. 26 charges Aki with second-degree murder, terroristic threatening use of a firearm in a felony, illegal place to keep pistol or revolver and prohibited possession of a firearm and ammunition.
The terroristic threatening charge is because Aki allegedly chased a neighbor, Don Sambrana, out of Balinbin’s house while brandishing a black semi-automatic pistol. According to court documents, Sambrana told police he was in the same room when the shooting occurred but didn’t actually see the shot being fired.
A bench warrant issued after the indictment orders Aki to be held without bail. He’s been in custody since the shooting and his bail had been previously set at $360,000. The judge maintained the no-bail status, but scheduled a bail hearing for Tuesday at 1 p.m.
Aki was in the middle of a contested fitness hearing in Hilo District Court when the indictment occurred.
“One of the (three) doctor’s reports came back unfit,” Wharton said.
According to court records, psychiatrist Dr. Andrew Bisset testified on Aug. 20 that Aki could not or would not provide a coherent explanation on what happened that day. The hearing was continued to Oct. 24, but it’s not known if those proceedings will continue, or if the question of Aki’s fitness will be heard in Circuit Court.
“At this time, I’m not going to move to submit on report,” said Wharton, who was making a special appearance for court-appointed defense lawyer Bill Heflin. “First, I don’t know if Judge (Barbara) Takase is going to dismiss the District Court case, and secondly, as has happened in other cases when they’re pending the same charge in two courts, we just use the District Court’s (mental report) documents in Circuit Court.”
Aki was asked several questions by Hara during the hearing, replying to all with the same one-word answer, “Yep.”
Wednesday’s hearing was not the first in Aki’s case with disorder in the court. As he was being led out of District Court on May 28, Aki looked toward the back of the courtroom gallery and yelled: “They’re raping people down at the house! You should know!”
A woman’s voice from the back of the courtroom shot back: “You’re the molester!”
Aki is a convicted felon and registered sex offender. He was charged with first-degree sex assault in 2001, but in a deal with prosecutors, Aki pleaded guilty to third-degree sex assault on Jan, 29, 2003, and was sentenced to a year in jail with credit for time served and 10 years probation, according to court records.
In addition to sex offender registration, Aki was ordered to seek both psychosexual and anger-management treatment.
On Jan. 19, 2007, Aki was found to have violated his probation, and Hilo Circuit Judge Greg Nakamura restarted the clock on his 10-year probationary term.
Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiitribune- herald.com.